Storing a lambda alongside type-erased data

Ali Çehreli acehreli at
Thu Sep 8 03:18:08 UTC 2022

I am sure nothing is new here and I may have thought of this before but 
it was a revelation today. :)

I've been trying to come up with a way of storing arbitrary number of 
objects of arbitrary types, which means I would be using a ubyte array.

But then how do I use the data later without needing to remember its 
type perhaps with TypeInfo? I first considered registering data up front 
with something like

   SumType!(Tuple(int, string, double),
            Tuple(S, char))

but I couldn't make it work and it wasn't useful having to register 
valid sets of data like that.

I looked at how std.variant.VariantN prints the correct type and failed 
to understand the magic there. :(

Then I came up with storing a lambda that is created when the exact type 
is known. The following simple variant can carry arbitrary set of data 
because the data is provided as sequence template parameters (aka variadic).

Note that set() member function is @nogc because the data is placed in 
an existing ubyte array. (That was the main motivation for this design.) 
(I left notes about 3 bugs in there, which can all be taken care of.)

Then the stored lambda is used to print the data. (I am sure the lambda 
can do other things.) I chose 'function' in order to be @nogc. When not 
required, it could be a 'delegate' as well.

import std; // Sorry :(

struct V_(size_t size)
     // This is where the data will reside; we have no idea on
     // what actual types of data will be used.
     ubyte[size] mem;

     // This is the lambda that remembers how to use the data
     // (printing to an output sink in this case.)
     void function(void delegate(in char[]), const(ubyte)*) dataToStr;

     // We can set any data into our data buffer
     void set(Args...)(Args args) @nogc nothrow pure {
         // Thank you, Tuple! :)
         alias Data = Tuple!Args;

         // Place the tuple of arguments
         // BUG 1: Must consider alignment of Data
         // BUG 2: Must check that size is sufficient
         // BUG 3: The destructor of old data should be run
         //        (optionally?)
         emplace(cast(Data*)(mem.ptr), Data(args));

         // This is the interesting bit: Storing the lambda that
         // knows how to print this type.
         dataToStr = (sink, ptr) {
             // Cast back to the actual type. We know the type here.
             auto d = cast(Data*)(ptr);
             static foreach (i; 0 .. args.length) {
                 if (i != 0) {
                     sink(", ");

     void toString(scope void delegate(in char[]) sink) const {
         dataToStr(sink, mem.ptr);

// A convenience function to avoid needing to specify the
// template parameter. (The syntax is noisy otherwise.)
auto V(size_t size = 1024)() {
     return V_!size();

void main() {
     // Start with an empty variant
     auto v = V();

     // Store some data in it
     v.set(42, "hello", 2.5);

     // Now set different types of data
     struct S {
         int i;
     v.set(S(7), 'a');


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