March 10, 2007

Complete computing system in 20,000 lines of code

I just finished watching Ian Piumarta's talk on the project at Viewpoints Research Institute to build a complete (metal up) personal computer system in 20,000 lines of code. While the easy way to do this would be to use APL, Ian, Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, and the others working on the project have instead opted to go for building metacircular/self-describing systems instead. Of course, in modern parlance this is called "reflection," a very crappy version of which can be found in the Java language and runtime system. Among fascinating programming language and compiler topics, Ian discusses Schorre's Meta-II compiler compiler (developed in 1962), which had a self-describing grammar. Fascinating stuff, and in my opinion critically important, since the only proven way to reduce software complexity has been, to, well, reduce software complexity - less lines of source code written in a simpler way makes for better, more maintainable software, and this is exactly what the project aims to do.

Here is the link to the video:

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