[racket] set!: eval-ing to lvalues

From: Carl Eastlund (cce at ccs.neu.edu)
Date: Sun Jun 9 08:18:50 EDT 2013


Not every Scheme uses an interpreter with an eval function as its primary
method of execution, or even at all.  Racket uses a bytecode interpreter
and a JIT native-code compiler; the eval function simply triggers
compilation to bytecode.  These give a great deal more efficiency than
running via eval, and supporting multiple modes of execution would be
significantly more expensive.  Evaluating to values by default, rather than
to addresses, also gives the compiler a great deal of flexibility.  It
doesn't need to keep track of the addresses where it found things and refer
to them there in case they are about to be mutated; once they have been
"found" via evaluation, they can be copied to register and the original
address can be forgotten, if that's most expedient.  I'm not a compiler
implementer myself, so I'm sure others can probably give more specific
details.  In the meantime, I hope this explanation is helpful.

Carl Eastlund

On Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 4:12 PM, Sean Kanaley <skanaley at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello all,
> I was curious why Scheme and now Racket does not inherently support a
> generic set!.  I found an SRFI
> http://srfi.schemers.org/srfi-17/srfi-17.html that suggests a generic
> method solution requiring a lookup for the "real" setter (and so needing a
> special setter for every data type.  What is the disadvantage of simply
> changing eval to take a "fetch?" parameter that decides whether to
> ultimately resolve addresses to values?  Then set! is evaluated with this
> as #f and can operate on whatever that address is.  I have implemented this
> in a toy interpreter with the bare minimum of forms plus vectors to test.
> The vector-ref type of function gets applied as usual to the vector and
> index arguments, except that if it's within a set! as the left argument
> where the fetch? is #f and the final fetching of the address given by
> vector-ref never happens.
> Here's the critical pieces:
> 1. setting
> "update" is what changes the store
> set! is of course a clause within eval
> the last parameter to eval in the first line says don't fetch
> [(set! addr-x x) (match-let* ([(v*s addr s) (eval addr-x e s #f)]
>                                   [(v*s v s) (eval x e s)])
>                         (update addr v s))]
> 2. evaluating symbols (another clause)
> the symbol only returns its address with fetching off
> [(sym y) (let* ([addr (lookup y e)]
>                     [val (if fetch? (fetch addr s) addr)])
>                (v*s val s))]
> 3. the "built-in" (part of environment) vector-ref called vec@
> "fetch?" will be false if (vec@ ...) is the first argument to set!
> "a" is the base address of the vector
> (define (vec at -f e s fetch? v i)
> ...unimportant stuff...
>         (let ([val (if fetch? (fetch (+ a i) s) (+ a i))])
>           (v*s val s)))))
> So long as all built-in types have this conditional fetcher, then every
> user type built on top of them won't need a special setter.  And since this
> would work just as well for inc! types funtions, from now on
> (vector-set! v i (add1 (vector-ref v i))
> is
> (inc! (vec@ v i))
> I assume this has already been thought of and therefore discarded, but why?
> ____________________
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>   http://lists.racket-lang.org/users
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