I recently hacked together a small yacc for C. Initially, I was programming as if I lived in the future and performance was not a problem. However, with this LALR state generation you can't be too silly, as I soon discovered. Processing this C89 grammar took around 8 minutes, that was not really acceptable as bison could deal with it in a fraction of second! After eliminating a few massive performance hogs (sorted array to represent a set, loop invariant in a loop), I was processing the above C grammar in 5 seconds. Much better! Then comes my point, at that time the profiler was saying that my code was fairly fast and accounted for less than a second of runtime. The issue turned out to be in my use of malloc/free in the libc. I used the following pattern:

The case 3 happened much more often than the case 2 so I thought that glibc's allocation code would simply give me the same block all the time. Switching to the scheme below got me a 5x speedup, so I guess I was wrong!

The conclusion I can draw is that objects likely to be short-lived should really not be allocated dynamically. This makes me wonder how, for instance, C++'s RAII and Rust's automatic liveness mechanisms handle this kind of performance problems. The speed of my yacc is now similar to bison's after only 10% of the code was changed. This proves the point that, instead of designing for speed, we should design for simplicity and then, improve.