Reflection and hyper-programming in persistent programming systems
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In an orthogonally persistent programming system, data is treated in a manner independent of its persistence. This gives simpler semantics, allows the programmer to ignore details of long-term data storage and enables type checking protection mechanisms to operate over the entire lifetime of the data. The ultimate goal of persistent programming language research is to reduce the costs of producing software. The work presented in this thesis seeks to improve programmer productivity in the following ways: • by reducing the amount of code that has to be written to construct an application; • by increasing the reliability of the code written; and • by improving the programmer’s understanding of the persistent environment in which applications are constructed. Two programming techniques that may be used to pursue these goals in a persistent environment are type-safe linguistic reflection and hyper-programming. The first provides a mechanism by which the programmer can write generators that, when executed, produce new program representations. This allows the specification of programs that are highly generic yet depend in non-trivial ways on the types of the data on which they operate. Genericity promotes software reuse which in turn reduces the amount of new code that has to be written. Hyper-programming allows a source program to contain links to data items in the persistent store. This improves program reliability by allowing certain program checking to be performed earlier than is otherwise possible. It also reduces the amount of code written by permitting direct links to data in the place of textual descriptions. Both techniques contribute to the understanding of the persistent environment through supporting the implementation of store browsing tools and allowing source representations to be associated with all executable programs in the persistent store. This thesis describes in detail the structure of type-safe linguistic reflection and hyper-programming, their benefits in the persistent context, and a suite of programming tools that support reflective programming and hyper-programming. These tools may be used in conjunction to allow reflection over hyper-program representations. The implementation of the tools is described.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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