Theory and Applications Of Containers

Funding:

EPSRC Standard Research Grant EP/C511964/1, GPB 228,561

Duration:

May 2005 - April 2008

Summary:

How can we design better programming languages? Clearly this is a fundamental question, but to answer it we had better decide upon what makes a good programming language. For us, the central observation is that computers are good at some things and people at others. Computers can add up millions of numbers in a fraction of second - much more than humans could. On the other hand, humans excel at abstract thinking as one can find in poetry, art, music, mathematics etc. Given these observations, programming languages should allow the programmer to concentrate on high level design patters for programs and allow the low level details, such as the actual management of the memory, to be delegated to compilers and other specialised optimising programs. This proposal takes this idea and applies it to the representation of data structures. That is, we want a way of representing data structures which is as abstract as possible so as to correspond closely to the way we think about data structures while formal enough that we can write programs to manipulate and optimize definitions written using this representation. Of course much work already exists in this direction, typically the development of advanced programming languages which companies such as Microsoft are now investing in. However, our new idea of "containers" seems to be an advance in the representation of data and we have already used them to produce a number of new results detailed in the proposal. We now want to go further and apply them to state of the art problems in computing with advanced data structures. The applied research we have in mind, when applied to our current containers, will produce significant new results, while applying them to the extensions of containers we propose to develop will produce qualitative advances.

People:

N Ghani

Partners:

Dr T Altenkirch (University of Nottingham), Dr CT McBride 

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