Project 1: Arith compiler

We won’t spend much time in this course talking about compilers. But for this first project you will explore a very simple compiler for the Arith language.


First, download the files you will need:

ArithCompiler.lhs is the file you will edit for your project. You don’t need to worry about Parsing.hs; just download it and put it in the same directory as ArithCompiler.lhs. You should be able to use if you wish. Just upload this file along with Parsing.hs to your project and :load ArithCompiler.lhs as usual.

If you are using Haskell installed on your own computer, note that depending on what version you have, you may need to start ghci with a flag to tell it to use the parsec library, like so:

ghci -package parsec ArithCompiler.lhs

First, some extensions and imports we will need for the parser; you don’t need to worry about these.

AST and interpreter

Here are the data types we used to represent Arith abstract syntax in class, along with a simple interpreter.

A parser has been provided for your convenience, to help you test your functions. You can use the readArith function to parse concrete Arith syntax into an AST.

For example, try evaluating interp (readArith "(2+3)*4"), which should result in 20. This is much more convenient than typing interp (Bin Times (Bin Plus (Lit 2) (Lit 3)) (Lit 4)).

The abstract stack machine

Instead of compiling Arith programs to machine code, you will compile them to an abstract machine. An abstract machine is just like a real machine except for the fact that it is imaginary.

Our imaginary machine is quite simple. It keeps track of a list of instructions to execute, and a stack of integers (recall that Haskell lists can also be used as stacks). There are four instructions it knows how to execute:

  • PUSH n: given an integer n, push it on top of the stack.
  • ADD: pop the top two integers off the stack, add them, and push the result back on top of the stack. The machine halts with an error if there are fewer than two integers on the stack.
  • SUB: pop the top two integers, subtract the topmost from the other, and push the result.
  • MUL: pop the top two integers, multiply them, and push the result.
  1. Make a data type called Instruction to represent the four stack machine instructions described above.

Our machine can also be in one of three states. Each state may additionally store some information.

  • WORKING: this state corresponds to normal operation of the machine. It should contain a list of remaining instructions to execute and a stack of integers.

  • DONE: this state means there are no more instructions to execute. It should contain only the final stack.

  • ERROR: something has gone terribly, horribly wrong. In this state, the machine does not need to remember any instructions or stack.

  1. Make a data type called MachineState to represent the possible states of the machine, as described above. Each different state should contain whatever information the machine needs to remember in that state.

  2. Write a function step :: MachineState -> MachineState which executes a single step of the machine. For example, in the WORKING state it should try executing the next instruction and return an appropriate next state for the machine.

  3. Write execute :: [Instruction] -> MachineState, which takes a program and runs the machine (starting with an empty stack) until the machine won’t run anymore (that is, it has reached a DONE or ERROR state).

  4. Finally, write run :: [Instruction] -> Maybe Integer, which executes the program and then returns Nothing if the machine halted with an ERROR or an empty stack, or Just the top integer on the stack if the machine successfully finished and left at least one integer on the stack.

The compiler

Now that you have a working abstract machine, you can compile Arith expressions into equivalent programs that run on the abstract machine.

  1. Write a function compile which takes an Arith and yields a list of Instructions.

Of course, your compiler should output not just any list of instructions! It should output a program which, when run on the abstract machine, successfully produces the same integer result as the Arith interpreter would. That is, for any a :: Arith,

run (compile a) == Just (interp a)

To test the above it will be convenient to write a function which finally puts some of these things together:

  1. Write a function exec :: String -> Maybe Integer which takes a String, parses it, compiles the resulting Arith, and then runs the generated abstract machine instructions. It should return Nothing if the given String does not parse.

You should now be able to test that if s is any String, then eval s == exec s.

Level 1

To complete this project to Level 1, do the above steps completely and correctly. eval s == exec s must be true for all strings s.

Level 2

To complete this project to Level 2, in addition to the requirements for Level 1:

  • Ensure that your code uses good Haskell style, for example:
    • Use camelCase for variable names.
    • Use informative but not-too-long variable names.
    • Vertically align = signs within a function definition.
    • Use consistent indentation (see above linked style guide).
      • Note in particular “The indentation of a line should not depend on the length of any identifier in preceding lines”.
  • Make sure your code is simplified as much as possible, for example, without redundant pattern-matching.

  • Turn on {-# OPTIONS_GHC -Wall #-} and make sure your code generates no warnings.

  • Write informative, grammatically correct comments explaining your code, its operation, and any choices you made along with the reasons for those choices.

Level 3

Consider a different virtual machine with the following characteristics:

  • The machine has a (potentially infinite) memory of integer cells, addressed by consecutive natural numbers 0, 1, 2, … The cells all start out with value 0.
  • It also has a single “accumulator register” which can store a single integer. The accumulator also starts as 0.
  • The machine supports the following instructions:
    • ACCUM n: Set the value of the accumulator to the integer n.
    • STORE a: Store the current contents of the accumulator into the memory cell with address a.
    • ADD a: Add the contents of the memory cell at address a to the accumulator, updating the accumulator with the new value.
    • SUB a: Subtract the contents of the memory cell at address a from the accumulator, updating the accumulator with the new value.
    • MUL a: Multiply the contents of the memory cell at address a by the accumulator, updating the accumulator with the new value.

You should implement:

  • A run function which executes a list of instructions for this abstract machine, and returns the final contents of the accumulator.
  • A compiler which takes an Arith expression and compiles it to a list of instructions for this virtual machine.
  • Be sure to include some examples showing that your compiler works correctly, that is, that your compiler is semantics-preserving: interpreting an Arith expression should give the same result as compiling and then running.


Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain