Control Table - The Interpreter and Subroutines

The Interpreter and Subroutines

The interpreter can be written in any suitable programming language including a high level language. A suitably designed generic interpreter, together with a well chosen set of generic subroutines (able to process the most commonly occurring primitives), would require additional conventional coding only for new custom subroutines (in addition to specifying the control table itself). The interpreter, optionally, may only apply to some well-defined sections of a complete application program (such as the main control loop) and not other, 'less conditional', sections (such as program initialization, termination and so on).

The interpreter does not need to be unduly complex, or produced by a programmer with the advanced knowledge of a compiler writer, and can be written just as any other application program - except that it is usually designed with efficiency in mind. Its primary function is to "execute" the table entries as a set of "instructions". There need be no requirement for parsing of control table entries and these should therefore be designed, as far as possible, to be 'execution ready', requiring only the "plugging in" of variables from the appropriate columns to the already compiled generic code of the interpreter. The program instructions are, in theory, infinitely extensible and constitute (possibly arbitrary) values within the table that are meaningful only to the interpreter. The control flow of the interpreter is normally by sequential processing of each table row but may be modified by specific actions in the table entries.

These arbitrary values can thus be designed with efficiency in mind - by selecting values that can be used as direct indexes to data or function pointers. For particular platforms/language, they can be specifically designed to minimize instruction path lengths using branch table values or even, in some cases such as in JIT compilers, consist of directly executable machine code "snippets" (or pointers to them).

The subroutines may be coded either in the same language as the interpreter itself or any other supported program language (provided that suitable inter-language 'Call' linkage mechanisms exist). The choice of language for the interpreter and/or subroutines will usually depend upon how portable it needs to be across various platforms. There may be several versions of the interpreter to enhance the portability of a control table. A subordinate control table pointer may optionally substitute for a subroutine pointer in the 'action' column(s) if the interpreter supports this construct, representing a conditional 'drop' to a lower logical level, mimicking a conventional structured program structure.

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Famous quotes containing the word interpreter:

    For man is but the servant and interpreter of nature: what he does and what he knows is only what he has observed of nature’s order in fact or in thought; beyond this he knows nothing and can do nothing.
    Francis Bacon (1560–1626)