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HELP VARIABLES                              Andrew Law, August 1987

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

This file describes the different types of variables available in
POPLOG. Variables may be constructed by the user or may already exist as
part of the system. The variables that are provided by the system are
either environment variables (concerned with the behaviour of the
operating system and its relation with POPLOG) or POP-11 system
variables concerned with the behaviour of various POPLOG facilities
(e.g. VED, the tracer, the database etc.). Another class of variables
are the ones found in Prolog. Prolog variables behave very differently
to POP-11 variables.

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

 -- Introduction
 -- Environment variables
 -- POP-11 system variables
 -- The nature of POP-11 identifiers
 -- Variables and constants
 -- Lexical and Dynamic scoping
 -- Active variables
 -- Forms of POP-11 variable declaration
 -- Prolog variables

-- Environment variables ----------------------------------------------

These control POPLOG's relationship with the operating system. See

HELP *INITIAL       - some examples of environment variables, how to
                        set them and how to tailor POPLOG
HELP *INTIALISATION - overview of documentation relating to tailoring
DOC  *SYSSPEC       - description of the local directory

-- POP-11 system variables --------------------------------------------

Many HELP files describe the value and function of variables associated
with individual facilities. In addition, the following provide lists of
variables, their function and possible values:

HELP * POPVARS      - general POPLOG system variables
REF * VEDVARS       - variables associated with the control of VED

The *QUERY mechanism can be used to obtain a description of most
built-in variables.

-- The nature of POP-11 identifiers -----------------------------------

Variables are a sub set of the set of identifiers:

HELP *IDENTIFIERS - introduction to identifiers.

Variables are a type of identifier. Identifiers can de distinguised
according to several characteristics (some of which are discussed here
- see REF *IDENT and *HELP IDENTIFIERS for more details):

-- Variables and constants --------------------------------------------

Identifiers can be:

    variables (multiple assignment)
    constants (single assignment)

The basic difference is that variables can be assigned to many times,
constants can only be assigned to once. See HELP * IDENTIFIERS,
*CONSTANT, REF *IDENT for further details.

-- Lexical and Dynamic scoping ----------------------------------------

Identifiers can be:

    dynamically scoped (permanent)
    lexically scoped (temporary)

The basic difference between them is that lexical identifiers can be
referenced only inside the unit of program text inside which they are
declared (i.e. a procedure or a file), and then only while that text is
being compiled, whereas permanent identifiers once declared can be
referred to anywhere and at any time (unless they cancelled at some

-- Active variables ---------------------------------------------------

There are also active variables. The basic difference between an active
and non-active variable is that active variables generalise the notion
of a variable with an  associated value by  allowing the  actual value
slot in  an identifier  record  to contain not the  associated value
itself, but rather  a procedure  that will return that value when
called. Thus, when an identifier is declared active, attempting to
access its value will cause the procedure found in the value  slot to
be  executed and  its result  returned;  similarily, attempting to
assign to  the  variable will  run  the updater  of  that procedure with
the new value passed as its argument.

    Moreover, the mechanism is generalised still further by allowing the
'nonactive'  procedure   and  its   updater  to   have  not   just   one
result/argument, but any fixed number of them: this number is called the
'multiplicity' of the active variable.  An access to an active  variable
of multiplicity N  therefore produces  N results, and  a similar  number
must be given when assigning to it.

Active variables are described in more detail in in REF *IDENT and REF
*VMCODE, and summarised in HELP * ACTIVE_VARIABLES.

-- Forms of POP-11 variable declaration -------------------------------

There are several different kinds of permanent and lexical identifiers
available in Poplog.

Global or local:
    vars            permanent
    lvars           lexical
    lvars           lexical
    lconstant       lexical constant
    constant        permanent constant
    dlvars          permanent lexical
    dlvars active   permanent lexical active, multiplicity = N
    lvars active:N  lexical active, multiplicity = N
    vars active:N   permanent active, multiplicity = N

Local only:
    dlocal          (neutral as to whether lexical or non-lexical)
    dlocal active:N (active, neutral as to whether lexical or

See documentation below for more details.

-- Prolog variables ---------------------------------------------------

PLOGHELP *SYNTAX/VARIABLES - the syntax of Prolog variables

-- RELATED DOCUMENTATION ----------------------------------------------

HELP *IDENTIFIERS - introduction to identifiers
TEACH *VARS       - tutorial introduction to permanent variables
HELP  *VARS       - declaring permanently scoped variables
HELP  *LEXICAL    - the nature of lexically scoped variables
HELP  *DLOCAL     - defining permanent local variables
HELP  *LVARS      - defining lexically scoped variables
HELP  *CONSTANT   - constants
HELP  *CANCEL     - cancelling words
HELP  *ACTIVE_VARIABLES - active variables

REF *WORDS        - details of words in POP-11
REF *POPSYNTAX    - details of POP-11 syntax
REF *IDENT        - technical details of identifiers
REF *VMCODE       - the POPLOG virtual machine

--- C.all/help/variables -----------------------------------------------
--- Copyright University of Sussex 1987. All rights reserved. ----------