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On Aug 12, 2005, at 9:17:48, Boyko Bantchev wrote:
Having read your postings, I feel that I should answer
some of your criticism, and, conjointly, provide a rationale
for what I described in my initial posting.

I guess the "criticism" part refers to the other posters' messages you also addressed in this message. I tried *very hard* to sound as neutral as possible. :-)

First of all, I did not mean my proposal to be, as you might
have thought, the beginning of some more ambitious work of
mine.  It was really about a simple-minded preprocessor that,
I think, allows me to create Lua programs in a more rational,
succinct and readable way.

 More rational and readable in your opinion? Fine with me.

I wanted to receive some opinions, which I did.  I also hoped
to hear about more or less similar work being done, or having
been done already.  In this I (almost) failed, but I will
continue waiting.

Well, opinions you got. The problem seems to be that most people just didn't share your opinion :-)

Most of them got pretty far, than
realized that they wanted to do more than this solution
would allow. As you seem to be using the same technique
(at least that's what some of your statements sounded
like to me), I didn't really have much hope for this
getting anywhere.

As I said, I din't want to get anywhere else.  What the
proposal aimed at is what it already does.  I may change
some details, or even redo the whole thing in awk, in order
to deal with the problems I mentioned, but that is all.

By "getting anywhere" I was mainly referring to the "problems you mentioned". You wrote how certain parts of the code didn't yet translate right with your search/replace-based approach. My friends (at the PXI/CHASM/WildFire/Sphere project, in case you want to try finding out more about their experiences) tried to do something similar with HyperTalk. Admittedly, HT is much more free-form, but nonetheless most modern programming languages require you to have *at least* a full tokenizer for the language to correctly translate. In addition, languages like HyperTalk have many tokens whose behavior changes depending on context. The pathological case pertaining to HT is:

    put "hello" into buttons
if the number of card buttons = 15 then -- number of single card named "hello", represented by variable "buttons"


if the number of card buttons = 15 then -- count the number of all buttons on the card layer of the current card

Okay, this may be an example that would in reality be better served by actually reserving the identifier "buttons", but I couldn't think of a better one right now. Anyway, most languages have similar cases, and if you don't build a full parser, it's easy to screw up or cause oddities. SuperCard (, for instance, supports "= not" as an alternate spelling for "is not", which, IMHO, is simply wrong, and stems exactly from solving token alternatives at the tokenizer level instead of in the parser.

On the other hand, I am interested in learning about
relevant work of other people, if there is such.

Sphere has a Yahoo Group. You could also check out the Compilers101 and QDepartment Yahoo groups. The latter two are compiler-design mailing lists with a lot of overlap, so I don't know which to recommend.

Let me just finish by mentioning that, while these symbols may be faster from eye to mind, that only works as long as either the symbols are intuitive to you (which typically is the case when you invent it yourself or when you use something regularly for years). The problem is that a lot of source code is written by or worked on by several people, and in that case, anyone else looking at the code will first have to learn your shortcuts. The effort and time spent learning (seemingly) arbitrary shortcuts is typically much greater than the additional time it takes to read a full word, especially since most adults read entire words and not single characters (they recognize a word by a basic shape, and only actually read each character when it doesn't fit in the sentence).

The time spent writing long identifiers is negligible in this case, since typically code is written once and read a couple ten thousand times or so. Modern programming languages (and the better maths textbooks) are honed to find the best compromise between being short and concise and still readable without having memorized everything in it. So, I'm just not seeing myself something this extreme in the "concise" end of the scale that requires me to hire a specialist to read it if I can't maintain it myself anymore.

-- M. Uli Kusterer