On the Future of Computer Program Specification and Organization

by R. M. Balzer

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Summarizes the currently available methods of organizing computer programs — subroutine pyramid, generators, co-routines, and passed subroutines — and presents an alternative concept, program integration, based on use of the total context rather than specific procedures. Most of a typical program is devoted to housekeeping data — subroutine save areas, parameter passing mechanisms, indices, pointers, tree and list structures, dictionaries — that have nothing to do with the specific problem but rather with its computer solution. Programs expressed entirely in problem-specific terms require implied rather than specified processing; logical process specifications not affected by data representation; dynamic linkage by the dynamic adaptive modification at execution; and dynamic requesting of information as required from the current context. Steps in this direction include CORC, DWIM, VERS, question-answering systems, PL/I ON-UNITS, "Dataless Programming" (described in RM-5290) and Ports (described in R-605). The field is ripe for a breakthrough. (See also R-562, R-563, R-603, RM-5611.)

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