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Show HN: L2: An elegant untyped, unsafe, unhygienic programming language (github.com/murisi)
83 points by murisitarusenga on June 10, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments

L2 is an experimental programming language that maps efficiently to machine code (like C). I think it is interesting because I have not seen 1) control flow primitives that are like Scheme's continuations but that are also efficient 2) L2's variant of s-expressions that do not need a symbol or string data type 3) a macro system that is equivalent to but operates differently from Common Lisp's

As far as I know, scheme's continuations are efficient. That's kind of the basis of RABBIT, Orbit, and a chunk of Appel's work, isn't it?

(See also: http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/2406#comment-36369)

As far as I can tell, L2's continuations look very similar to the Cheney on the M.T.A. [0] approach to continuations.

[0] http://home.pipeline.com/~hbaker1/CheneyMTA.html

Thanks for the link. I am not sure if I see the similarity. L2 neither uses the heap nor garbage collection nor are its programs converted into continuation-passing-style. Am I missing something?

Those compilers use CPS as an intermediate language - a bit like SSA form for functional languages - which is (mostly) independent of supporting first class continuations.

Support for first class continuations is a matter of tradeoffs. It's quite reasonable for an implementation to choose 'slow' continuations (in which call/cc copies the stack) in order to be able to use the more efficient native stack for function calls.

(EDIT: and in response to the linked post, it is quite possible to efficiently compile what would be contifiable functions in direct style - see the recent paper Compiling Without Continuations in which the GHC hackers do exactly that.)

I will try to read into the details of Scheme's implementation of continuations...

The reason I made the claim about efficiency is because Scheme's continuations have an unlimited lifetime. This is in contrast to L2's continuations that can only have a dynamic lifetime. (The rules for manipulating continuations in L2 are analogous (and only analogous) to the rules for returning the addresses of local variables in C.) So I just assumed that Scheme implementations must occur an overhead for the greater generality of their continuations.

Different Scheme implementations, presumably, have different implementations of continuations.

An implementation of call/cc can be efficient provided you are willing to sacrifice the notion of a single execution stack and embrace constructs like spaghetti stacks that allow for indefinite lifetime of an execution context.

Very interesting. Especially combining a language primitive, English description, and assembly. I proposed that with a minimal Lisp for bootstrapping recently. The one I was looking at you might find interesting as you experiment with this stuff:


Both the PreScheme and VLISP papers have stuff about it.

Thank you. I personally struggled to understand Scheme continuations from their English descriptions, so I made a point of including concrete implementation details in my write-up.

Thank you for the link to PreScheme. It seems to have exactly the same goals that I was aiming for. I will look into it.

It's hard to tell from a cursory overview, but I'm pretty sure L2's macro system is roughly equivalent to "fexpr" based macro systems used by some other lisps and schemes.

I'm not sure if this is correct. Googling fexprs takes me to this Lambda the Ultimate post: http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/3640#comment-51665. There it says that fexprs map from s-expressions (of the operands to fexpr) to a value (which replaces the fexpr call). L2's macro system does not do this. L2 maps from s-expressions (of the operands to the macro) to s-expressions (that are supposed to replace the macro call).

Is there a runtime at all? It seems to me there isn't.

Would it be unfair to say this is a Lispy evolution of the oldschool macro assembler?

I'm not sure of the exact definition of a runtime... The best I can say is that the instructions emitted by the compiler correspond directly to the commands in the source file.

You are certainly correct about the Lispyness. I've not yet had the opportunity to use a macro assembler, so I cannot say how similar L2 is to it. To aid your comparison, I think L2 is also quite similar to B language.

This is why I read HN.

So... Forth, basically. ;)

Though you jest, Forth did influence certain decisions in L2's design. In particular, by using continuations you can make an L2 function temporarily leave a variable amount of data at the top of the stack in order for the caller or some other function to use.


I get all the other adjectives but where is the elegance?

  (function frst (l) [fst [rst [' l]]])
  (function frfst (l) [fst [rst [fst [' l]]]])
  (function frrst (l) [fst [rst [rst [' l]]]])
  (function frrrst (l) [fst [rst [rst [rst [' l]]]]])
  (function rfst (l) [rst [fst [' l]]])
  (function ffst (l) [fst [fst [' l]]])
  (function llst (a b c) [lst [' a] [lst [' b] [' c]]])
  (function lllst (a b c d) [lst [' a] [lst [' b] [lst [' c] [' d]]]])
  (function llllst (a b c d e) [lst [' a] [lst [' b] [lst [' c] [lst [' d] [' e]]]]])
  (function llllllst (a b c d e f g) [lst [' a] [lst [' b] [lst [' c] [lst [' d] [lst [' e] [lst [' f] [' g]]]]]]])
Don't you see? Elegant!


Jesus Christ, dude. Try to live a little.

Is there an abbreviation for "function"?

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