Episode 57: Compile-Time Metaprogramming

Filed in Episodes by on May 27, 2007 0 Comments

Recording Venue: JAOO 2006
Guest(s): Laurence Tratt
Host(s): Markus
This episode is about compile-time metaprogramming, and specifically, about implementing DSLs via compile-time metaprogramming. Our guest, Laurence Tratt, illustrates the idea with his (research) programming language called Converge.

We started by talking about the importance of a custom syntax for DSL and took a brief look at the definition of DSLs by a chap called Paul Hudak. We then briefly covered the disctinction between internal and external DSLs.

More to the point of this episode, we discussed the concept of compile-time metaprogramming, and the language features necessary to achieve it: in converge, these concepts are called splice, quasi-quote and insertion. We then looked at how the Converge compiler works, and at the additional features that are required to implement DSLs based on the metaprogramming features mentioned above. Using an example, we then walked through how to implement a simple DSL.

Looking at some of the more technical details, we discussed the difference between the parse tree and the abstract syntax tree and at different kinds of parsers – specifically, the Earley parser used by Converge. In multi-stage languages (i.e. languages that execute programs and meta programs) error reporting is important, but non trivial. We discussed how this is done in Converge. We finally looked at how to integrate Converge’s expression language into your DSL and how to package DSL definition for later use.

The last segment look at the process of implementing a DSL in converge and about some of the history and practical experience with Converge. Lessons learned from building Converge wrap up the episode.


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