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HELP LVARS                               J.Gibson and A.Sloman June 1984
                                           (Updated A.Sloman Jun 1990)

lvars <word 1>, <word 2>, <word 3> = <initialisation>, ...;

lconstant <word 1> = <init 1>, <word 2> = <init 2>, ...;

dlvars <word 1>, <word 2>, <word 3> = <initialisation>, ...;

lvars and lconstant can be used to declare lexically scoped variables.
"define lvars" and "define lconstant" can also be used, by analogy with
"define vars" and "define constant". "dlvars" is used for efficiency in
special cases, explained below. Initialisations are compulsory for
lconstant declarations, optional for the others.

         CONTENTS - (Use <ENTER> g to access required sections)

 -- Introduction
 -- Why use lexical variables? (1 - efficiency)
 -- Restrictions on lexically scoped identifiers
 -- Nested procedures accessing lexical variables (dlvars)
 -- Using lconstant for nested procedure definitions
 -- Why use lexical variables? (2 - fewer bugs)
 -- Use lexical locals with functional arguments
 -- Why use lexical variables? (3 - using lexical closures)
 -- Sharing a lexical environment between procedures
 -- Problems of accessing lexical identifiers
 -- Lexical variables and sections
 -- Formal parameters of procedures may be declared lexical
 -- Lexical closures vs partial application
 -- Merging lexical environments: #_INCLUDE and include
 -- Poplog virtual machine instructions
 -- Related Documentation

-- Introduction -------------------------------------------------------

"lvars" and "lconstant" are syntax word used for declaring a variable as
"lexically" scoped rather than having a "permanent" scope (sometimes
misleadingly called "dynamic" scope.  See HELP * LEXICAL for an
explanation of the difference. For more detailed and technical
discussion see REF * VMCODE).

The syntax for lvars and lconstant declarations is just as for vars and
constant declarations, and for the duration of any file or procedure in
which they occur will override any dynamic declaration for the same

If used at the top level in a file or compilation stream lvars and
lconstant declarations are analogous to vars and constant declarations,
except that they identifiers they declare are accessible only within
that compilation stream. (See REF * PROGLIST and REF * POPCOMPILE for
technical information on the compilation stream.)

For general information on non-lexically scoped variable declarations see

For general information on lexical scoping see HELP * LEXICAL. This
also explains the use of the syntactic form

    lblock <statement sequence> endlblock

to create a block of program within which lexical identifiers can be
declared with scope restricted to the block, and without requiring an
extra level of procedure call.

For information on "file-local" lexicals see HELP * LEXICAL and

In older versions of POP-11 and POP-2, and in older LISP systems (e.g.
Interlisp), only dynamically scoped variables are provided.

-- Why use lexical variables? (1 - efficiency) ------------------------

One of the advantages of LVARS over VARS within procedure definitions is
efficiency, since lexical local variables are allocated either to
registers or to cells in the procedure stack frame (giving faster access
and more compact code).

Thus of two procedures that differ only in that the second declares its
local variables as lexically scoped, thus:

    define foo(x, y, z) -> w;

    define baz(x, y, z) -> w;
        lvars x, y, z, w;

The second will generally be more efficient.

If a procedure contains an lconstant declaration then it must include
initialisation. The intialisation expression will be evaluated ONCE
at compile time and the result inserted wherever the lconstant
identifier occurs. Thus

    define foo();
        lconstant list = [a b c];

Is equivalent to

    lconstant list = [a b c];

    define foo();

        ... #_< list >_# ...
        ... #_< list >_# ...


Where the #_< .. >_# brackets specify compile time evaluation as
explained in HELP * HASH_

-- Restrictions on lexically scoped identifiers -----------------------

various operations on the lexically scoped variables will not work as
for non-lexical, e.g. use of "valof" and use as pattern variables in the
pattern matcher. (See HELP * MATCHES)  Similarly POPVAL applied to a
list containing an identifier defined as lexical will not access the
value of the identifier in the current lexical scope.

-- Nested procedures accessing lexical variables (dlvars) -------------

The efficiency gain in using lvars is not always realised if the
procedure contains NESTED procedure definitions that use one or more of
the lexical variables non-locally. This is because the compiler may have
to make a new closure of the nested procedure every time the enclosing
procedure runs, causing considerable storage turn-over and garbage
collections. This would happen with the following code, for example:

define print_length(item) -> n;
    ;;; given any item return the number of characters required
    ;;; to print it
    lvars item, n = 0;

    define cucharout(char);
        ;;; locally re-define cucharout to increment n
        lvars char;
        n + 1 -> n


The garbage collections can be demonstrated:

true -> popgctrace; ;;; indicate garbage collections
repeat 50000 times print_length('a') -> endrepeat;
;;; GC-auto(C) TIME: 0.12, MEM: used 18317 + free 387186 + stack 1 = 405504
;;; GC-auto(C) TIME: 0.14, MEM: used 18159 + free 385296 + stack 1 = 403456

Every execution of print_length creates a closure of the nested
procedure to ensure that the correct environment for "n" is preserved.

In this case the user can easily tell that no such precaution is
necessary, since the nested procedure will be run only in the context of
the activation of print_length. So "n" can be declared as a lexically
scoped dynamic variable, with far less overhead, thus:

define print_length(item) -> n;
    lvars item;

    dlvars n = 0;   ;;; more efficient than lvars

    define cucharout(char);
        ;;; locally re-define cucharout to increment n
        lvars char;
        n + 1 -> n


This version will run without generating garbage collections.

-- Using lconstant for nested procedure definitions -------------------

In some cases the user can tell that the nested procedure is to be
invoked ONLY in the scope of the enclosing procedure, and that it will
never be "pushed" as a data object, e.g. stored in a list or given as
argument to another procedure to run in a different environment. In that
case the nested procedure can be defined using "lconstant" as in the
following (contrived) procedure to sum the lengths of the items in a

define sum_lengths(list) -> n;
    lvars item, list, n = 0;

    define lconstant increment(item);
        lvars item;
        datalength(item) + n -> n;      ;;; "n" used non-locally

    for item in list do increment(item) endfor


This non-local use of the lexical identifier "n" will not cause garbage,
and has all the efficiency advantages of lexical scoping.

true -> popgctrace;
vars list = [a cat];
repeat 50000 times sum_lengths(list) -> endrepeat;

(The full story is quite complicated. For more details see the section
on implementation of lexical variables in REF * VMCODE/Implementation).

Note that "lconstant" and "define lconstant" can also be used, like
"lvars" at the top level in a file to declare constant identifiers
accessible only in that file.

-- Why use lexical variables? (2 - fewer bugs) ------------------------

Another, more important, advantage of lexical scoping is protection
against unintended interactions between variables in different
procedures. For example if the procedure -dolist- were defined thus
to achieve the effect of the procedure -applist-:

    define dolist(list, proc);
        ;;; Apply procedure proc to every element in list
        vars item;
        for item in list do proc(item) endfor

Then the following procedure -whichin- would not work as intended because
the second argument that it gives to -dolist- is a procedure that is
intended to access the variable -list- in -whichin- whereas in fact it will
access the variable local to -dolist-, which will be running when the
nested procedure is invoked.

    define whichin(items, list);
        ;;; Print out elements of -items- that are in -list-
                if member(x,list) then x => endif

    whichin([a b c], [1 a 2 b]);   ;;; should print out only a and b
    ** a
    ** b
    ** c    ;;; error

But if we re-define dolist with all its variables lexically scoped, then
nothing defined outside it can access them

    define dolist(list, proc);
        ;;; apply procedure proc to every element in list
        lvars item, list, proc;
        for item in list do proc(item) endfor

without changing the definition of -whichin-, it now works:

    whichin([a b c], [1 a 2 b]);   ;;; should print out only a and b
    ** a
    ** b

-- Use lexical locals with functional arguments -----------------------

In general, any procedure like -dolist- that takes another procedure P
as argument and runs it (or hands P as argument to other procedures that
will run P), should have its local variables declared as lexical, to
prevent unwanted interactions.

Alternatively the procedure can be defined within a section to prevent
unwanted interactions, though the overheads of using a section are
greater. (HELP * SECTIONS).

-- Why use lexical variables? (3 - using lexical closures) ------------

A third advantage of LVARS over VARS is that a procedure using lexical
variables can return as a result a procedure that "remembers" the values
that those variables had when the procedure was returned. Two procedures
returned as results can share an environment composed of such lexical
variables. This considerably enhances the expressive power of the

In particular, suppose that inside a procedure P1 an identifier
L is declared using LVARS. Then L can be used non-locally in a procedure
P2 whose definition is nested within P1. If P2 is returned as a result
by P1, or saved in a data-structure for later invocation, then P2 will
"remember" the lexical values of the variables that it uses non-locally,
such as L. In fact a different procedure with an associated "lexical
environment" will be created each time P1 is run and returns P2, so
there is a storage, and garbage collection, overhead in using this

For example a we can define a procedure that makes a "contents-repeater"
for a vector (i.e. a procedure which returns the next item in the vector
each time it is invoked, and returns TERMIN when the vector is

    define vectorin(vector) -> pdr;
        ;;; given a vector return a contents-repeater
        lvars vector, pdr, index = 1, vectorlength =datalength(vector);
            ;;; return "next" item in vector, or termin
            if index > vectorlength then
                termin                      ;;; nothing left to return
                subscrv(index, vector);     ;;; return next item
                index + 1 -> index;         ;;; and increment index pointer
        endprocedure -> pdr;

The procedure returned by -vectorin- has to "remember" the values of
-vector- and -index- that were current when it was created. So each
time -vectorin- is run it creates a "lexical closure" procedure, with the
environment frozen in. If the procedure updates the variables, as the
above nested procedure does, it must remember the updated values.

We can demonstrate that this works by using -vectorin- as defined above
to create two different contents-repeaters, each of which remembers its
own environment:

    vars procedure (rep1, rep2);
    vectorin({1 2 3}) -> rep1;
    vectorin({the cat}) -> rep2;

    rep1() =>
    ** 1
    rep2() =>
    ** the
    rep2() =>
    ** cat
    rep2() =>
    ** <termin>         ;;; rep2 now finished
    ** 2                ;;; but rep2 still remembers its environment

-- Sharing a lexical environment between procedures -------------------

A more interesting example returns two procedures that share an
environment. The first is as before, namely a generator of elements
from the vector, whereas the second is a back_spacer, which decrements
the internal counter.

define vectorin(vector) -> generator -> back_spacer;
    ;;; given a vector return a contents-repeater, and a back_spacer
    lvars vector, back_spacer,
         index = 1, vectorlength =datalength(vector);

    procedure() -> next;
        ;;; return "next" item in vector, or termin
        lvars next;
        if index > vectorlength then
            termin -> next              ;;; nothing left to return
            subscrv(index, vector) -> next;
            index + 1 -> index;         ;;; and increment index pointer
    endprocedure -> generator;

        ;;; reset the index
        index - 1 -> index
    endprocedure -> back_spacer


vars repeater, back_spacer;

vectorin({the cat on the old mat}) -> repeater -> back_spacer;

repeater () =>
** the
repeater () =>
** cat
repeater () =>
** cat
repeater() =>
** on

A different call of vectorin would create two entirely separate
procedures with a shared environment.

-- Problems of accessing lexical identifiers --------------------------

Against the above advantages is the disadvantage that at run time,
during debugging, it is not easy to get at the values of lexical
variables, since the context in which they were compiled has been lost.
Special tools will be provided for this later.

-- Lexical variables and sections -------------------------------------

An identifier that has been declared as lexical will be accessible
within the scope of a different section within the same file. I.e.
lexical identifiers are ignored by the section mechanism. The following
example illustrates this.

    vars a = 1;     ;;; non-lexical
    lvars b = 2;    ;;; lexical
    vars c =  3;    ;;; non-lexical, but imported to the section

    section testing c => f;   ;;; entering a section, importing c, exporting f

    a =>            ;;; inaccessible
    ** <undef a>

    b =>            ;;; accessible
    ** 2

    c =>            ;;; accessible
    ** 3

    vars d = 4;     ;;; non-lexical, not exported
    lvars e = 5;    ;;; lexical, doesn't need to be exported
    vars f = 6;     ;;; non-lexical, exported

    endsection;     ;;; leaving the section

    d =>            ;;; inaccessible
    ** <undef d>

    e =>            ;;; accessible
    ** 5

    f =>            ;;; exported so accessible
    ** 6

-- Formal parameters of procedures may be declared lexical ------------

Since a procedure can now have two kinds of variable, formal argument
and result variables are now ambiguous (i.e. are they "vars" or
"lvars"?). They will default to "vars", but the POP compiler makes this
default declaration ONLY for names which do not appear in any "vars" or
"lvars" statements immediately following the procedure header.

As shown in the above examples, "lvars" can be used to declare that the
formal parameters of a procedure are lexically scoped, either for the
sake of efficiency or for other reasons.

It is recommended that all formals be declared as lexical in this way,
unless there are good reasons for them to be permanent identifiers (e.g.
CUCHAROUT, PRMISHAP, etc.). Output locals can also be declared as
lexical. It is possible for some formal parameters to be lexical, some
permanent: e.g.

       define foo(x, y, z) -> p;
           vars z, u, v, w;
           lvars x, a, y = 99, b =g(x,y), c, d, procedure p;

etc. Note also that since the first N lvars are allocated to registers
(where N varies according to machine, ranging from 0 on Intel
80386-based machines, through 2 on a VAX or M680?0 to 8 on a SPARC
processor). This allows chosen variables to get the registers (i.e. x
and a in the example above).

Pop-11 compile_mode can be set so that any procedure whose formal
parameters or output locals are not explicitly declared as vars or lvars
will produce a warning message, e.g.

    compile_mode:pop11 +varsch;

    define foo(x,y) -> z;
        . . . .


For more on compilation modes
    See REF * POPCOMPILE, SHOWLIB * compile_mode

-- Lexical closures vs partial application ----------------------------

Pop-11 provides a mechanism that achieves some of what can be done using
lexical closures, i.e. procedures created by combining a procedure with
an environment. In some cases Pop-11 partial application is more
efficient, though using lexical closures is generally more elegant.

For more on partial application see
    REF * PROCEDURE/Closures

-- Merging lexical environments: #_INCLUDE and include ----------------

It is sometimes convenient to declare various constants and macros that
are used only during compilation. If declared as lvars and lconstants
they will be discarded at the end of the current compilation stream,
saving space.

These can be put into a file that is compiled whenever it is needed.
However, if such a file is compiled using -compile-, or -uses-, or
-lib-, then the lexically scoped identifiers will not be accessing in
the "calling" file, defeating the purpose of providing a re-usable set
of lexical declarations. For this reason, Pop-11 allows a new file to be
merged with the current compilation stream instead of having its own
stream. This is achieved using #_INCLUDE or include. The latter is
generally more convenient. See HELP * INCLUDE, REF * #_INCLUDE .

-- Poplog virtual machine instructions --------------------------------

There are several virtual machine instructions available for planting
code to create and manipulate lexical identifiers. Examples include


-- Related Documentation ----------------------------------------------

HELP *VARIABLES   - range and nature of variables
HELP *VARS        - declaring dynamic variables
HELP *DLOCAL      - dynamic local expressions
HELP *LEXICAL     - nature of lexical variables
HELP *EFFICIENCY  - more on the use of lexical variables
HELP *CONSTANT    - constants and their declaration
HELP *INCLUDE     - extending current compilation stream
REF * #_INCLUDE   -  (ditto, with more details).

REF  *IDENT       - technical details of POP-11 identifiers
HELP *IDENTIFIERS - introduction to POP-11 identifiers

HELP * CLOSURES   - see section on partial application  above

REF  *SYNTAX      - POP-11 syntax, including declarations
REF  *POPSYNTAX   - POP-11 syntax, in diagrammatic form.
REF  *VMCODE      - technical details of the POP-11 virtual machine
    (This explains that three kinds of lexical variables have to be
    distinguished, with different implementation requirements.)

--- C.all/help/lvars
--- Copyright University of Sussex 1990. All rights reserved. ----------