The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, Debtember 09, 2001

Nondeterministic Control Words in Forth

I borrowed a Dr. Dobb's Journal from Mark yesterday. I'm only mentioning it because Spring was commenting on it as I was reading it.

It's the Annual Forth Issue from September of 1983 (#83). It's not the fourth issue of the year, but instead about the computer language Forth, developed by Chuck Moore.

I enjoy going through old computer magazines and technical manuals and that's what Spring said separated the geeks from the nerds—geeks like looking through old magazines and technical manuals. I personally can't say I do it because I'm a geek, but I do do it because there are sometimes some interesting techniques that might otherwise get lost (and let's face it—looking at old computer ads are always fun (10Mbyte hard disk for any computer for only $2,300! What a steal!).

For this issue, it's the articles about Forth that are interesting. A couple of articles about Forth on the Motorola 68000 which are still relevant today, nearly 18 years later because of the popularity of the Palm Pilot, which uses a Motorola 68000.

The real mind bending article was NonDeterministic Control Words in Forth by L. L. Odette. The gist is having the program just randomly pick one branch of code or another, plus the ability to backtrack and pick the other choice (if the current branch leads nowhere towards the solution) makes for elegant solutions to certain classes of problems. It's an intriguing method—at any point where you can select a course of action, you save the program state and pick one course. If that turns out to be a non-solution, or a poor solution, you restore the program state and automatically take another course.

Something to think about, which is why I love going through old magazines like this. There are possible treasures to find like this.

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