Finalization is often desired in order to perform automatic garbage collection, whether by reference counting or by marking. We have proved our structured technique by developing a garbage-collected Lisp system in Ada in which the Lisp values are instances of a limited private type. The Ada code was so highly structured, that it was generated automatically using a simple compiler. The garbage collector in this system was easily and safely implemented, and different garbage collection techniques were tested without affecting user code.
Limited private types (hereinafter called LP types), however, can severely cramp a programmer's style, since assignment is prohibited. While the programmer of a package defining an LP type can also define an equivalent "assign" procedure, we claim below that the existence of an unrestricted assignment procedure destroys one of the major benefits of an LP type, and one may be better off in such a case using an ordinary private type.
One of the major benefit of LP types is the possibility of providing birth control for the objects of these types. In other words, one can provide "object identity" [Baker93] for variables of these types in such a way that the defining package of the LP type controls the allocation and initialization of all useful objects of this type. (Due to the vagaries of the Ada language, one can declare variables of the LP type without informing the package defining the LP type, but since the package can guarantee that these variables are initialized to impotent values, these declarations become useless.)
Important primitive uses of LP types in Ada are tasks and files. Both tasks and files require significant operating system interaction, where the identity of the task or file object is more important than any values associated with the object. Through the use of the concept of an LP type, and the careful definition of the operations on the object, it becomes impossible to create a copy of the object which might result in ambiguity about the object's actual identity. If an Ada implementation universally uses "by-reference" parameter-passing, then the object's identity becomes isomorphic to its address, because the limitations on LP types ensure that no copies can be made.
generic with procedure initialize; -- initialization before main action with procedure action; -- main action. with procedure cleanup; -- cleanup after main action package wind_unwind is end wind_unwind; -- Look ma; no specifications! package body wind_unwind is begin begin initialize; action; -- initialize & then do main action exception when others => cleanup; raise; -- if exception, then cleanup end; -- and then re-raise same exception cleanup; -- cleanup on normal exit. end wind_unwind;We will now utilize our Ada wind_unwind generic package to emulate another useful construct which we call init_fini. This package declares a new variable of a given LP type (which must either be constrained or have defaults), and performs an initialization before, and a finalization after, a main body of code which uses this variable.
with wind_unwind; generic type lp is limited private; with procedure init(x: in out lp); with procedure action(x: in out lp); with procedure fini(x: in out lp); package init_fini is end init_fini; package body init_fini is x: lp; -- Declare a variable of type lp. procedure initialize is -- Initialize the lp variable. begin init(x); end; procedure main is -- Perform the action on the lp variable. begin action(x); end; procedure cleanup is -- Cleanup the lp variable. begin fini(x); end; package wu is new wind_unwind(initialize,main,cleanup); -- Execute all 3 end init_fini;We will now use our Ada init_fini generic unit to emulate another useful construct stolen from Common Lisp, with-open-file. The Lisp macro with-open-file provides an environment in which a variable is bound to an open file which can be used for I/O operations. This construct also provides automatically for the initialization and the finalization of the variable which is bound to the file, so that the user need not worry about closing the file. The init_fini generic unit assures that any file opened by with-open-file will be closed, even if exceptions are raised in the user's code.
with text_io; use text_io; generic with procedure action(f: in out file_type); -- Code using the file. name: string := ""; -- Name of file. mode: file_mode := in_file; -- Mode of file. form: string := ""; -- Add'l options. package with_open_file is end; with init_fini; package body with_open_file is procedure my_open(f: in out file_type) is -- Need own open proc. begin case mode is when in_file => open(f,mode,name,form); when out_file => create(f,mode,name,form); end case; end my_open; package oac is new init_fini(file_type,my_open,action,close); end with_open_file;This with_open_file example shows the generic use of our init_fini generic package, which can be similarly used for a whole host of operations which must be paired. For example, a frequent operation in a multiprogramming system is that of locking and unlocking a resource. While Ada provides a high-level tasking construct with a rendezvous capability, synchronization using this capability may not be efficient enough for the low-level locking operations of a shared-memory multiprocessor system. A "spin lock", like that below, may be more efficient.
package spin_lock is type lock is limited private; generic with procedure action(l: in out lock); -- Export only generics. package with_new_lock is end; generic with procedure action; procedure with_lock_locked(l: in out lock); private ... end spin_lock; with init_fini,wind_unwind; package body spin_lock is procedure new_lock(l: in out lock) is begin ... end; procedure kill_lock(l: in out lock) is begin ... end; package body with_new_lock is package nak is new init_fini(lock,new_lock,action,kill_lock); end with_new_lock; procedure lock_lock(l: in out lock) is begin ... end; procedure unlock_lock(l: in out lock) is begin ... end; procedure with_lock_locked(l: in out lock) is procedure initialize is begin lock_lock(l); end; procedure cleanup is begin unlock_lock(l); end; package wu is new wind_unwind(initialize,action,cleanup); begin null; end with_lock_locked; end spin_lock;This lock example shows a package which defines an LP type and only two generic units, both of which are nesting constructs. By programming using these constructs, it is impossible to forget to unlock a lock, or to forget to kill a lock when it is done. In particular, since we have not exported any of the unmatched operations (e.g., lock_lock or unlock_lock), we are capable of only "properly parenthesized" orders of execution.
We must utilize a generic procedure instead of a generic package for with_lock_locked, because this operation requires a lock object parameter. Due to an unfortunate Ada83 pun, a "generic formal object" has the same syntax as a variable declaration, and since public variables of a private type cannot be defined within the private type's package, neither can generics which have "formal objects" as parameters. This restriction puts generic units at a disadvantage relative to subprograms, which have no such restriction on their formal parameters, thus indicating that the restriction was a mistake.
Thus, the style of programming that uses nested expressions and "functions" such as CONS, which style is so dear to the hearts of Lisp programmers, is not safe in Ada, unless the Ada system incorporates a true garbage collector. There is, however, a closely related style of programming--widely used in Lisp and Scheme compilers--called "continuation-passing" [Steele78]. Continuation-passing style expands an expression into another expression in which all temporaries are explicit. Converting to continuation-passing style requires the ability to pass functional objects (functions and procedures) as arguments, however, and Ada83 does not support this capability. However, many situations requiring functional arguments in other languages can be emulated in Ada83 through the use of generic units, which can take functions and procedures as arguments. We will therefore utilize Ada generic units in this manner to provide a structured programming methodology for LP types which totally controls the management of temporaries.
We first show the conversion of a simple arithmetic expression to Ada
continuation-passing form to illustrate the style.
declare c: constant integer := a*a+b*b; begin <statements using c> end;
-- a,b defined outside this context.
-- this fragment converts into the following "continuation-passing" fragment
package my_integers is
type my_integer is limited private;
function "="(x,y: my_integer) return boolean;
generic with procedure cont(z: in out my_integer);
procedure plus(x,y: my_integer);
generic with procedure cont(z: in out my_integer);
procedure times(x,y: my_integer);
type my_integer is new integer;
package body my_integers is
function "="(x,y: my_integer) return boolean is
begin return integer(x)=integer(y); end;
procedure plus(x,y: my_integer) is
z: my_integer := my_integer(integer(x)+integer(y));
begin cont(z); end plus;
procedure times(x,y: my_integer) is
z: my_integer := my_integer(integer(x)*integer(y));
begin cont(z); end times;
with my_integers; use my_integers;
declare -- a,b defined lexically outside this fragment.
procedure cont_a2(a2: in out my_integer) is
procedure cont_b2(b2: in out my_integer) is
procedure cont_c(c: in out my_integer) is
begin <statements using c> end cont_c; -- c used here.
procedure plus_c is new plus(cont_c);
begin plus_c(a2,b2); end cont_b2; -- c ":=" a2+b2 computed here
procedure times_b2 is new times(cont_b2);
begin times_b2(b,b); end cont_a2; -- b2 ":=" b*b computed here
procedure times_a2 is new times(cont_a2);
begin times_a2(a,a); end; -- a2 ":=" a*a computed here
While the above translation appears inscrutable, it can be seen to be assembly
language, except that it must be read backward. We first instantiate
times with a continuation cont_a2 which will accept the
product; we then call this instantiation to compute a2=a*a.
We then instantiate times with another continuation cont_b2
which accepts the product, and then call this instantiation to compute
b2=b*b. Then we instantiate plus with a
continuation cont_c which accepts the sum, and call this instantiation
to compute c=a2+b2. Within cont_c, we perform a
calculation with the argument c, and this calculation makes its result
known by means of side-effects--output operations or assignments to more global
variables. It might also appear that this translation is inefficient, but if
an Ada compiler utilizes macro-expansion for generic units (virtually all do),
and follows pragma inline advice, then the translated code should be
just as efficient as the original!
The major reason for going to all this trouble is to allow "functions" such as a Lisp CONS to allocate new data structures without the possibility of losing track of them. If CONS is not a function at all, but a generic unit which takes as arguments a CAR, a CDR, and a continuation procedure, then CONS can control the fate of the cells it allocates (as well as the references to them) and passes as arguments to the continuation procedures.
Our translation so far has finessed the problem of the dynamic allocation of LP objects by continually calling another (generic) "procedure"--i.e., extending the stack. While this method can be used to simulate any computation through the use of an enormous stack [Fischer72], such a simulation is not a reasonable use of storage. Furthermore, we can only pass and call continuations using Ada generic units in certain restricted situations; we cannot avoid the problem of passing true continuations for recursive procedures, for example. Therefore, we must eventually face the issue of returning an LP value.
One approach to solving the value return problem is to convert every function into a procedure with one additional argument which is a variable into which the result should be placed. This approach has been used by FORTRAN compilers since the early 1960's, and is currently used by many C compilers. Once this conversion has been made, then the problem of returning a value becomes identical to the problem of assigning a value to a variable in an outer context. If we provided for a safe assignment procedure for the LP type, then our problem would be solved.
Providing a safe assignment procedure for a limited private type requires that the assignment procedure be capable of distinguishing variables which are under the control of the defining package from "fake" variables which have been defined by the programmer. This distinction is required because Ada provides no mechanism for restricting the user from defining variables of an LP type. The LP type can prevent any meaningful use of such illegitimate ("bastard") variables, however, by checking at run-time which variables were initialized using the default initialization (e.g., null for access types), and which were initialized through package-provided procedures. Assuming that such a test is incorporated into the defined assignment procedure, then the assignment procedure can only be used to transfer values from one controlled variable to another controlled variable, and a mechanism such as reference counting can be used to keep track of which objects are no longer referenced by any of the controlled variables. Since all package-controlled variables will be properly finalized, references cannot be lost, and storage cannot leak.
Another option open to the designer of the LP type is the provision of "write-once", or "logical" variables of the type. When a new package-controlled variable is created for the purpose of receiving a "function" result, for example, it is initialized to the "empty" state, and when this variable receives a value through assignment, it becomes "full". The assignment procedure can then be restricted to only assign to "empty" variables; it becomes erroneous to re-assign a variable. A properly constructed system of write-once variables has many similarities to certain functional languages (e.g., I-structures [Arvind89]) and to certain "concurrent logic" languages.
Basis. Variables of the LP type can only be created by the defining package, or through a user declaration. Because variables of the LP type cannot be explicitly initialized by the user, each must receive the default initial value provided by the package. So long as the defining package initializes its controlled variables to values distinguishable from the default initial value, then non-controlled variables can be detected.
Induction. We assume that all package-defined variables currently have legitimate values, while all user-defined variables have the default initial value. All parameters of the LP type of package-defined functions and procedures must use in out mode. As a result, only explicit, named variables of the LP type are acceptable as arguments to these procedures; nested expressions returning values of the LP type are not acceptable as arguments, and hence compiler-generated temporaries are not acceptable as arguments. Furthermore, all package-defined procedures check all of their arguments of the LP type to make sure that they do not have the default initial value. Package-defined procedures also do not assign any of their parameters to have the default initial value, hence no package-defined operation can result in a package-defined variable acquiring the default initial value. Since the user cannot assign a new value to any of his declared variables of the LP type, nor can any of his functions or procedures, his declared variables of the type can never change, and always retain their default initial value. QED
We note that a user can happily define as many variables of the LP type as he wishes--including components of user-defined records, arrays and access types. He can also define functions which take the LP type as arguments and return it as a value. Using these functions, he can create an unlimited number of copies of values stolen from legitimate controlled variables. These copied values are useless, however, as there is no way to get them into a variable. As a result, user-defined functions which return values of the type are completely useless, and user-defined procedures are simply complex compositions of package-defined operations, all of which thoroughly check their arguments for legitimacy.
We note that if our structured technique is used for the purposes of garbage collection, then one must be careful about what one does with copies of legitimate values. Suppose that the LP type defines Lisp-like variables which are capable of holding symbols, integers or lists. Suppose further that the defining package provides an operation to extract the "print-name" Ada string from a Lisp symbol. We now suppose that the programmer saves such a value, and then a garbage collection operation decides that the symbol is unreferenced, and therefore deallocates the string. The user now has a "dangling reference"!
We note further that even if an implementation uses "copy-in, copy-out" for in out parameters, programs which involve aliasing cannot defeat the safety of the LP type. Consider, for example, the operation procedure p(x,y,z:in out lp) is begin x:=y; end. If one inadvertently (and erroneously) calls p(a,b,a), one may achieve either a=b, or a fancy no-op, depending upon the sequence of out updates. If p checks all of its LP arguments for legitimacy, however, then all of the out-assigned values will be legitimate ones. Thus, while the program may malfunction due to the aliasing, the safety of the LP type will not be compromised.
Since programming with explicit temporaries is such drudgery, we implemented a
simple compiler to compile nested expressions with implicit temporaries into
our structured Ada code with explicit temporaries. An example of actual
generated Ada code is shown below. cons, car, cdr,
nullp and setq are defined by the type manager package for
the LP type t_type; names in upper case are found in the Lisp source
procedure REVERSE(result,L: in out t_type) is
procedure REVERSE_BODY(t0: in out t_type) is begin
declare -- labels
procedure REVERSE1(result,L,R: in out t_type);
procedure REVERSE1(result,L,R: in out t_type) is
procedure REVERSE1_BODY(t1,t2,t3: in out t_type) is begin
if not nullp(L) then
CDR(t1,L); -- t1:=cdr(l);
CAR(t3,L); -- t3:=car(l);
CONS(t2,t3,R); -- t2:=cons(t3,r);
REVERSE1(result,t1,t2); --  result:=reverse1(t1,t2);
setq(result,R); -- result:=r;
package p is new progv3(REVERSE1_BODY); -- need 3 temporaries.
begin null; end REVERSE1;
begin -- labels body of REVERSE_BODY
REVERSE1(result,L,t0); -- t0 already initialized to nil.
end; -- labels body of REVERSE_BODY
package p is new progv1(REVERSE_BODY); -- need 1 temporary.
begin null; end REVERSE;
;;; The above Ada code was automatically generated (except for some comments)
;;; from the following Lisp code:
(defun reverse (l)
(labels ((reverse1 (l r)
(if l (reverse1 (cdr l) (cons (car l) r))
(reverse1 l nil)))
The expansion ratio of 23:5 is about the same (~4X) as that reported by
previous researchers. Since the nested style used by the translator is
required by any Ada83 program which safely manages dynamic storage, and
since our compiler generates this style in a structured way, it is not clear
what advantage might be gained through "hand translating" or "re-engineering"
the Lisp code into Ada. Lisp (with perhaps an ML-style type checker [Wand84])
should be reconsidered as a powerful "specification language" which compiles
into an Ada "implementation".
We do not yet have good timing data on our Lisp/Ada system, because its efficiency depends critically on a few simple Ada compiler optimizations, which not all Ada compilers have. If the Ada compiler uses these optimizations, then our scheme should be very efficient, while if the Ada compiler does not use these optimizations, then it could be several times slower.
[Cohen86] describes a technique which exports a generic unit for updating elements of an abstract collection in place. He does not use LP types, however, nor is he concerned about controlling the proliferation of references.
[Rosen87] uses LP types to define a generic storage management package. His package exports a "destroy" operation instead of a nesting generic unit, and his package must be instantiated with a non-limited type. Thus, although his goals are similar to ours in wanting a completely safe storage manager, his package is not completely safe. The user can forget to "destroy" objects, and the use of reference counts can allow cyclicly referenced garbage to "leak away".
Our simple Lisp interpreter uses representations quite similar to those of [Smith88]; his system uses a "descoping" procedure rather than our safer nesting generic unit to control proliferation of references. Our interpreter uses a generic mapc unit, which emulates Common Lisp mapc; the use of this generic unit is quite similar to [Hosch90] and [Musser89], although these authors are less concerned with safe storage management. Yen [Yen89] [Yen90] has also developed implementations of Lisp capabilities in Ada.
Mendal [Mendal87] and Kownacki [Kownacki87] both provide excellent discussions of storage management in Ada. Nevertheless, their managers require some help from the user, and utilize reference counts which can leak storage.
Our method for using LP types to manage dynamically-allocated objects is more structured and less error-prone than previous methods [Mendal87] [Kownacki87], because our method cannot be compromised by the user of the LP type. While the code may appear involuted, it is quite structured, and can be easily read with practice. Due to its highly structured nature, there is less opportunity for the user to err by forgetting to finalize objects himself, and the resulting code is cleaner as a result of this finalization code having been removed.
Our method allows such tight control of objects of the LP type that one can preclude the use of these objects as components of composite objects. Of course, within the defining package one can provide for such composite objects either directly, or by exporting an appropriate generic unit. Only with this degree of control can advanced storage managers such as garbage collectors be safely programmed.
Some may criticize the appearance of the Ada code in our structured style. Given the structure and constraints of the Ada83 language, we believe that this appearance cannot be improved (other than with better comments and/or better formatting). One is then left with the quandry--code which is pleasing in appearance is unsafe, while code in our style is safe. In the final analysis, programming style should conform to the Bauhaus criterion "form follows function"; i.e., the elegance of a programming technique is correlated to its usefulness, not its outward appearance.
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 An obscure reference to [Clarke80]. As we shall see, higher-order (generic) constructs allow us to soar.
 The lack of assignment does not in and of itself cramp programming style; functional programming languages [Backus78]--including pure Lisp--provide quite elegant programming styles. Ada83, however, does not provide the necessary support for a completely functional style of programming.
 Some authors use LP types with such an "assign" procedure to allow the redefinition of the "=" operator; [Goodenough84] shows that this is not necessary, as "=" can be redefined for any type, albeit in a roundabout fashion.
 Without first-class continuations, Ada can't emulate the more interesting features of wind-unwind [Haynes87].
 We here use generic packages instead of generic parameterless procedures, because they tend to be slightly more efficient in many implementations that do not support inlining of procedures. There are slight differences in the reporting of errors between the two implementations, however, since the sequence of statements of the package bodies are executed during elaboration.
 cleanup should also be capable of cleaning up after an incomplete initialize. Normal exit cleanup cannot be moved inside the exception block, because exceptions within cleanup should not go back to cleanup; exception loops could otherwise occur. In any case, these are the correct Common Lisp semantics.
 The protected records of Ada-9X [Taft91] may provide a more structured and portable means to the same end.
 Converting formal objects into generic procedure parameters is analogous to "currying" in the lambda calculus.
 This lack will be corrected in Ada-9X [Taft91].
 The programmer can often arrange for the compiler to automatically generate this test as a subtype constraint check.
 Assuming that garbage has no directed cycles of pointers.
 Ada83 unfortunately restricts parameters of functions to have only mode in, so only procedures can be so used.
 The Ada83 indeterminacy regarding "by-reference" or "copy-in, copy-out" of in out parameters is inconsistent with Ada's stated goals of perspicuous code and trusted systems, since copy-out can cause havoc, and yet Ada83 is unwilling to force the detection of parameter aliasing, either through its type system or through run-time checks.
 The garbage collector is a non-copying variant of the "real-time" GC described in [Baker78].
 Unfortunately, a copying garbage collector requires that every reference be updated, which means that copy-in, copy-out semantics for in out parameters become unacceptable.
 Our compiler generates the specifications before generating the procedure bodies defined in labels expressions so that mutually recursive procedures will work correctly; for a single procedure, however, the specification is redundant.
 Our simple compiler still lacks a "tail-recursion" optimization [Steele78] which would transform REVERSE1 into an iterative loop.
 Other non-operations--e.g., constants--are also not derived; workarounds exist for some of these, however. For example, constants can be defined as parameterless functions with pragma inline; they are derived along with other subprograms, and inlining achieves the efficiency of a normal constant.
 Ada83's "cure" (copy-in, copy-out) is therefore worse than the "disease" (aliasing).
 Ada83 provides the attribute X'ADDRESS, which can compare parameters--e.g., X'ADDRESS=Y'ADDRESS. However, with copy-in, copy-out semantics, parameters with different addresses could still be aliased.