Special Implementation Strategies

Environment Vocabulary

The ansforth'94 standard describes a word to detect features of the forth environment. Forth scripts can use these hints to check whether the forth system is appropriate, and in some cases the script can try to use a different compilation path. However, the forth standard does not describe a way to extend the environment-hints - the 'environment?' word can only return the values. This is preventing a forthscript library to implement missing features, and advertise the newly gained system feature to independent application programs.

In december 2000, the developers of gforth (Anton Ertl), win32forth (Tom Zimmer) and pfe (Guido U. Draheim) agreed on a common approach for environment-query extensions based on a proper vocabulary named 'environment'. The implementation of 'environment?'-queries is based on a 'search-wordlist'-call. If the search fails, 'false' is returned, if it succeeds, the returned execution-token is 'execute'd and a 'true' flag is placed above.


The environment hints themselves are implemented by adding word definitions to this vocabulary, in most cases these are 'constant' or '2constant' definitions.

 also environment definitions
 1994 constant locals-ext
 false constant /floored
 32 constant max-files
 -1 -1 2constant max-ud
 previous definitions

This implementation strategy allows also to place internal variable/values into this vocabulary that can be easily referenced in the actual implementation by simply placing the environment-vocabulary in the search-order (by using the name) and to let the outer interpreter see words like '/hold' and 'max-files' directly. In conjunction with the tool-ext's 'words', the user can get an overview which system features are available.

 environment words ( returns: )
  C GFORTH-DIR              C SYSTEM-EXT              C CLK_TCK 
  p PFE-DEBUG               C FORTH-83                p PFE-VERSION 
  p LICENSE                 p HOST-SYSTEM             C ENVIRON-EXT 
  C STRING-EXT              C TOOLS-EXT               C MEMORY-ALLOC-EXT 
  C #LOCALS                 C LOCALS-EXT              p MAX-FLOAT 
  p FLOATING-STACK          C FLOATING-EXT            p MAX-FILES 
  C FILE-EXT                C FACILITY-EXT            C EXCEPTION-EXT 
  p MAX-UD                  p MAX-D                   C DOUBLE-EXT 
  C MAX-U                   C MAX-N                   C MAX-CHAR 
  C FLOORED                 C ADDRESS-UNIT-BITS       C /PAD 
  C /HOLD                   C /COUNTED-STRING         C CORE-EXT 

In pfe, the reduced question is also fullfilled by an "-EXT"-hint in the environment-wordlist, i.e. a call like

 s" core" enviroment? .    -1 ok   

returns true since it matches the 'core-ext' hint. This is a kind of convenvience behaviour.

[defined] / [undefined]

Another issue in forthscripted librarysections is the question whether a specific word is already present. The ansforth'94 standard describes the precompiler-like [IF]-[ELSE]-[THEN] words, however it is not described how to reliably deduce flags for these. A discussion on comp.lang.forth revealed, that even the set of 'find' and 'search-wordlist' is not so strictly standardized to accomodate the need for these ifdef-words.

Over time, every forth system has implemented means for a precompiler-type ifdef-section. In pfe, the early tek-mforth ifdefs are present in a seperate cdecl-ext wordset that does implement a subset of a C-compiler's precompiler words, including '#ifdef-#else-#endif' and '#define'. Other forth system have implemented '[ifdef]'-words, however these words do all suffer from having no easily portable implementation - with the greatest problem that the standard-implementation of '[if]-[else]' must count [if]'s and [then]'s to detect proper nesting. A system which had no [ifdef]'s does not see a newly-defined [ifdef] in the execution of [if].

Therefore the usage of [ifdef] should be depracated. Instead an independent word should be used to construct the flag for [if], and from the reference to the Forth Programmers Handbook (FPH), many forth system have chosen to use the terms [defined] and [undefined]. Note that some systems still use 'defined' (which is not immediate) or 'defined?' or 'have?', or perhaps they have '[not]' instead of the '[undefined]'-call. However the pair [defined]/[undefined] has found widespread acceptance and it is therefore implemented in pfe along with the [void]-call to place a reliable immediate false-flag for usage by [if].

 [void] [if] 
    here can be any text as this if can not get true.
    [undefined] rdrop [if] \ check for non-existance of a word
       [defined] r>drop [if] \ but found a synonym
         : rdrop postpone r>drop ; immediate
         : rdrop r> r> drop >r ; \ this is not standard-conform
    [then] \ the standard- bracket-if/then call is properly nested

Although these words are not (yet) standard, with some knowledge about the target systems search-order implementation, a highlevel definition of [defined]/[undefined] can be created that does properly work with the system-provided [if]/[else] construct. About twothird of the mature forth systems do already have the [defined]/[undefined] pair, so that their usage is reasonably portable across systems, and application software can be assured to compile in future system implementations.

state-smart over exec-only

Older forth system have often used a single word for doing both, exec-mode and compile-mode. In exec-mode, it would leave the parsed-value of the following word on the stack, while in comp-mode it would compile an execution-token and the value in a way that the value would pop up at runtime again. The ansforth'94 does however prefer to define two words, one for exec-mode and the other for comp-mode, so they are not state-smart anymore. In some compiling-environments (with preprocessing functionalities) this may eventually be a nice win, however it does sometimes confuse the the average forth programmer. The programmer can not anymore use a word on the commandline, and when satisfied enclose it into a ":"-";"-pair to memorize it as a colon-sequence.

In pfe, some of the immediate or exec-only/comp-only words have been extended to be state-smart. Where the ansforth'94 will make the behaviour of the word rather undefined or not applicable, in pfe it is just state-smart, and it will hence behave in traditional ways. The traditional forth programmer has simply to watch out for the cases where a newly-invented word from the ansforth'94 standard has been overloaded instead of the traditional word which had somehow been defined to be just not state-smart.

  .( whatever ) \ not state-smart, immediate
  ." whatever ) \ state-smart, orginally comp-only
  '             \ not state-smart, not immediate
  ['] name      \ not state-smart, immediate & compiles always
  '> name       \ state-smart version
  char woo      \ not state-smart, not immediate
  [char] woo    \ not state-smart, immediate & compiles always
  ascii         \ state-smart, very common in forth systems
  control       \ also state-smart and very common. Subtracts 32.