Improving FizzBuzz in Rust

Read the syntax-highlighted version here.

Chris Morgan has a really good write-up of the potential problems someone might encounter when you try to implement FizzBuzz in Rust. He gives the obvious solution, distinguishing 4 cases and printing Fizz, Buzz, FizzBuzz, or a number in each case. Problems appear when he tries to make a variable that can hold either the string or the number:

// This doesn't work because result
// can only hold one type of value.

for i in 1..101 {
    let result = if i % 15 == 0 {
        "FizzBuzz"
    } else if i % 5 == 0 {
        "Buzz"
    } else if i % 3 == 0 {
        "Fizz"
    } else {
        i
    };

    println!("{}", result);
}

Unfortunately, the normal string type &str does not work for this. He proceeds to give two solutions that do work:

  1. result can be a String, which would be allocated in the heap, written, and deallocated 101 times: 53 times a number is converted to string and 48 times a constant string is copied.
  2. result can be a Cow<str>, which is either a pointer to a preexisting string or a heap-allocated (and owned) String. This is more efficient because we save 48 times copying a constant string.
  3. result can be an enum describing either the three constant cases, or a i32 to be printed in decimal. This is more efficient because the integers are written directly into the output stream buffer, rather than being put into a String first. However, the implementation is long-winded: 24 extra lines.

In Golang, I think a different solution would be idiomatic: to return an interface object, of type interface{}. It’s a set of two pointers: one pointer to the data to be printed and one pointer that tells what kind of data it is. The second pointer can be used to print the object.

We can do a similar thing in Rust, and it’s actually pretty clean:

for i in 1..101 {
    let result: Box<Display> = if i % 15 == 0 {
        Box::new("FizzBuzz")
    } else if i % 5 == 0 {
        Box::new("Buzz")
    } else if i % 3 == 0 {
        Box::new("Fizz")
    } else {
        Box::new(i)
    };

    println!("{}", result);
}

Indeed, this code is equally long as the version with prints! (Though it took a while to get working.)

In Rust, a Box<Display> is some heap-allocated storage of unknown size. It starts with a pointer describing what kind of thing it is, and how to Display it, and after that is the data in some format. For instance, on 64-bit architectures the first three boxes look something like this:

0         8        16        24
| kindptr |  start  | length  |

start points to the start of the byte array, and length tells you the length of the substring we’re interested in.

Box::new(i) would look something like this:

0         8   12
| kindptr | i  |

Theoretically, this may even be faster than Chris’s variant as the digits are written into a buffer once not twice. But most importantly the code looks clean!