CS 450 Homework 6
The metacircular evaluator
Carl Offner
Fall 2017

Due Tuesday, October 31, 5:00 PM

This assignment consists of reading, understanding, and modifying the metacircular evaluator in Chapter 4 of Abelson and Sussman. The assignment has lots of pieces. Be sure you start early. Moreover, some of the things you need to do are more subtle than you may first think.

Copy file ~offner/cs450/hw6/s450.scm to your hw6 subdirectory. That file contains all the relevant code from A&S, with small changes so that it runs in UMB Scheme. The name of the evaluator has been changed to s450. The invoking function is now (s450), not (driver-loop). This is the file we have been discussing in class.

You will create two files (which I will collect):

IMPORTANT: Testing your code will be crucial. Test everything as you build it. Do not wait till you have finished coding the assignment to start testing. Keep careful notes. You will undoubtedly be surprised by some things, or have difficulty understanding what is going on in some cases. You should report all of this in notes.txt.

  1. (You should have already done this.) Play with the s450 evaluator:
    % scheme s450.scm
    ==> (s450)
    s450==> ...
    % scheme
    ==> (load "s450.scm")
    ==> (s450) 
    s450==> ...
    See how much of real Scheme is there. Write (in notes.txt) about what you found.
  2. Rewrite xeval so that the handling of special forms is data directed. (This is Exercise 4.3 on page 374.) For each special form ( lambda, set!, cond, define, quote, ... ) there is an appropriate semantic action—a scheme procedure A&S have already written. If you put those actions in a lookup table keyed by the symbol representing the special form then the cond in xeval will be much shorter, with a single table lookup for almost all the cases now listed separately. And you will be able to add special forms to s450 without editing xeval, which will now look something like this (in pseudocode):

       let action = (lookup-action (type-of expression))
           if lookup succeeded
            invoke action, passing it the expression and the environment
            else cond ... ;; check for a few other types of expressions

    You should write scheme functions like lookup-action and type-of to hide the lookup table implementation. (There are various ways to build a lookup table. You might want to review Section 3.3.3 (pages 266--271) for some ideas.) And for clarity below, we will sometimes refer to this lookup table as the "special form table", since that really is what it is.

    There's nothing fancy going on here. And type-of is an extremely simple procedure that just takes the expression and tells you what special form it represents. It's that simple.

    Please note that this lookup table for special forms is not part of the environment. It's completely separate. The only thing that is managed by the environment is variables, and a special form name is not a variable.

    To insert a new special form in the special form table, write the procedure install-special-form and call it this way (for example):

     ==> (install-special-form 'set! (lambda (exp env) ... ) ) 

    Since install-special-form is not itself a special form in scheme, its first argument will be evaluated, and therefore generally needs to be quoted, as in the example above, to prevent this. (Indeed, it is possible to call install-special-form with the first argument being an unquoted expression that evaluates to the symbol for the form you are installing.) The second parameter, action, should be a lambda expression (or something that evaluates to a lambda expression) that takes two parameters, exp and env. xeval in s450 will arrange to pass those parameters when action is called. Since install-special-form is not a special form, that lambda expression will be evaluated in the environment in which install-special-form is called before being passed to the body of install-special-form.

    Since install-special-form is called only for its side effect, it returns no useful information. However, to avoid generating garbage, have it return the name of the special form being installed.

    Your implementation should ensure that a new special form cannot be installed using the name of a variable that is already defined.

    Similarly, a special form (that is already in the special-form table) cannot be "reinstalled" using install-special-form.

    Once you have written install-special-form you can save yourself lots of time typing at the s450==> prompt to test your code by installing load as a special form. The code you need is in ~offner/cs450/hw6/load.s450.

    If you do this, please include the text of load.s450 in your file s450.scm. Don't (load "load.s450").

  3. Clean up the way primitive procedures are installed in s450: write a procedure install-primitive-procedure that can be called like this:
             (install-primitive-procedure <name>  <action>)
    For instance,
             (install-primitive-procedure 'car car)

    This procedure should insert the definition of the primitive procedure directly in the global environment. Make sure that it is impossible to reuse the name of a special form for the name of a primitive procedure.

    Note that as before, since install-primitive-procedure is not a special form, the name generally needs to be quoted.

    As in the case of install-special-form, this procedure is called purely for its side effect, so it does not return a useful value. However, to avoid generating a lot of garbage, have it return the name of the primitive procedure being installed.

    This is important! After you have done this, change the startup code so that all the primitive procedures are created by calls to install-primitive-procedure. And then be sure to delete the original code that defined the primitive procedures. So in particular, you should not have the variables

    in your code. Please make sure they are no longer in your code; I'm going to check for that.

    If you don't understand what I mean here, please get in touch with me. This is a small thing you need to do, but if you don't do it, my tests just won't work.

    Then install + and some other scheme procedures of your choice as primitive procedures in s450. Note that a primitive procedure in s450 does not have to be primitive in the underlying scheme.

  4. In s450 now, entering the name of a special form at the prompt causes a crash. Fix things so that instead a message is generated, like this:
            s450==> if
            Special form:  if
  5. Fix things so that the name of a special form cannot be redefined or assigned to. That is, we should not be able to get away with typing
            s450==> (define if 3)
            s450==> (set! if 3)
  6. Write and install the following new special forms:
    (defined? <symbol>) returns #t iff the <symbol> is defined in the current environment.
    (locally-defined? <symbol>) returns #t iff the <symbol> is defined in the first frame of the current environment.
    (make-unbound! <symbol>) removes the <symbol> binding(s) from every frame in the current environment.
    (locally-make-unbound! <symbol>) remove the <symbol> binding from the first frame of the current environment.

    (These last two special forms constitute Exercise 4.13 on p. 380 with the issue raised there resolved.)

    locally-make-unbound! should not report an error if the <symbol> is not locally bound to begin with. There is just nothing to do in that case.

    Design a way to test these four new special forms. Hint: in order to create a situation in which the local and global versions of your new special forms should behave differently, you will have to build some environments with more than one frame. The only way to do that from the s450 prompt is by applying a procedure. (And see the note above about loading s450 test files.) For instance, you might try defining something like this within s450:

       (define f
          (lambda (a b)
            (display (locally-defined? a))
            (display (locally-defined? b))
            (locally-make-unbound! a)
            (locally-make-unbound! b)
            (display (locally-defined? a))
            (display (locally-defined? b))

    and then executing (f 3 4). What should happen? And there are more complex expressions you could create. You should do that as well. And you should write about this in notes.txt, of course.

Some Friendly Warnings