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The semantics of future and an application

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 1999

C. FLANAGAN
Affiliation:
Rice University, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005-1892, USA
M. FELLEISEN
Affiliation:
Rice University, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005-1892, USA
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Abstract

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The future annotation of MultiLisp provides a simple method for taming the implicit parallelism of functional programs. Prior research on future has concentrated on implementation and design issues, and has largely ignored the development of a semantic characterization of future. This paper considers an idealized functional language with futures and presents a series of operational semantics with increasing degrees of intensionality. The first semantics defines future to be a semantically transparent annotation. The second semantics interprets a future expression as a potentially parallel task. The third semantics explicates the coordination of parallel tasks by introducing placeholder objects and touch operations.

We use the last semantics to derive a program analysis algorithm and an optimization algorithm that removes provably redundant touch operations. Experiments with the Gambit compiler indicate that this optimization significantly reduces the overhead imposed by touch operations.

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Research Article
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© 1999 Cambridge University Press
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