Goto

GOTO is a command found in many programming languages which instructs the computer to jump to another point in the computer program. It is the fundamental operation which can be used for transfer of control from one part of a program to another, and most compilers will translate other flow control statements into GOTOs.

GOTO is found in FORTRAN, Algol, COBOL, SNOBOL, BASIC, C, C++, Pascal and many other languages, particularly assembly languages. In the assembly languages, the GOTO command is usually called BRA (from "branch"), JMP or JUMP, and is often the only way of organizing program flow. However GOTO is not found in all programming languages. Certain languages, such as Java, do not contain a GOTO statement.

Unlike a function call, a GOTO does not demand any preparation or restructuring of the code. Because of that, it becomes very easy to produce inconsistent, incomplete and generally unmaintainable spaghetti code. Consequently, as structured programming became more prominent in the 1960s and 1970s, numerous computer scientists came to the conclusion that programs should always use the structured flow commands (loops, if-then statements, etc.) in place of GOTO. However, others believed that even though the use of GOTO is often bad practice, there are some tasks that cannot be straightforwardly accomplished in many programming languages without the use of GOTO statements, such as exception handling.

One famous criticism of GOTO is the article by Edsger Dijkstra called Go to statement considered harmful (Communications of the ACM 11, 147-148. 1968). Donald Knuth's Structured Programming with goto statements (Computing Surveys, 6(4):261-301, December 1974) considers some of the places where GOTO may be the appropriate tool. Generally these are in situations where a particular programming structure is not available. In these cases, GOTO can generally be used to emulate the desired structure, since it is one of the fundamental building blocks of programming.

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