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Micro Forth (uForth), a model-based implementation of a Forth-like language interpreter in Java and Erlang
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Micro Forth (uForth), a model-based implementation of a Forth-like language interpreter in Java and Erlang.


This repository contains three projects:

  • uForth (under the directory eclipse-workspace): Includes the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF) Ecore meta-model representing static instances of a uForth program. It also includes a reader (a program that interprets uForth programs and converts them into instances of the uForth metamodel) and an interpreter (incomplete by now, but easily understandable).
  • uForthProgGen (under the directory eclipse-workspace): Includes a Xpand program that converts instances of the uForth metamodel into the original program (modulo comments and indentation). It is used to show my students how to process a model to generate code. It could be used to generate machine code (a compiler, for instance) or, as the assignment for my students, to generate Erlang code that uses the next project to run.
  • forth_interpreter.erl (under the directory erlang): It includes an Erlang interpreter for the uForth language. The interpreter is able to run programs, but it does not contain a reader, so programs have to be input using the module API. I'll show examples below.


uForth (micro-Forth) is a variant of Forth that treats strings as an independent token. Also, it only includes one type of number, a double precision floating point number (similar to a Java double). So, an uForth program is a sequence of words. A word in uForth can be of three different types:

  • Strings: Any set of characters delimited by double quotes. For example "Hello".
  • Numbers: Double precision floating point number. Ex: 1.23.
  • Identifiers: Any set of chars not included within the two above word types. Usually in upper case. For instance, DUP.

As in normal Forth, definitions start with the word : and end with the word ;. Finally, programs end with END.

Following the examples in the cited Starting Forth, an example uForth program that can be used as reference is:

: STAR 42 EMIT ;


The previous program writes 20 stars in the screen.

The project includes a standard implementation of an EMF Ecore metamodel representing static uForth programs. Using a genmodel, the Java classes are generated for manipulating models of that metamodel, and allows populating models from uForth programs.

The ForthReader class (within package reads a uForth program and produces a model of that program (that conforms to the uForth metamodel).

Using uForth models previously generated by the reader, the ForthInterpreterBare class (within package can run uForth programs. The interpreter is not complete at the moment, and includes just a few system words, but can be taken as an example of building an interpreter. Also, the interpreter is not optimized, as could include a previous "compiling" phase that would optimize location for jumps for ifs and loops. I will implement these optimizations in the future.


This is an example project that uses Xpand to produce the original uForth program from a model. It could be used as a bare-bones of a code generator in any language that implements the instructions of the uForth program. It us used in fact by my students as an example for generating code for the following project in Erlang.


This erlang module is implemented as a server (in the future it will be a normal gen_server), and, given a constructed uForth program, it is able to run it in a simulated memory. Again, it does not contain optimizations, but it works. As can be seen, the code for using the interpreter from a uForth program could be generated easily by the uForthProgGen project (exactly the assignment for my students, so it is not shown).

The API for the server is easy. It is shown via an example of how to build a program with a definition, and how to run it:

FI = forth_interpreter:start(),
forth_interpreter:def_marker(FI, {def, "STARS"}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {number, 0}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {plainid, "DO"}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {number, 42}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {plainid, "EMIT"}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {plainid, "LOOP"}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {plainid, ";"}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {number, 20}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {plainid, "STARS"}),
forth_interpreter:new_instruction(FI, {plainid, "END"}),

Each definition starts with a call to def_marker/2, and tells the interpreter that a new definition starts at the point in memory. When the program is meant to start, a call to program_start_marker/1 tells the interpreter so, and the following words form he program itself.

Tests in the module are written ad-hoc but will be enhanced in the future.

Each system word in the module is implemented as a function that transform the fiState record that holds the state of the interpreter. For instance, for the + system word:

plus_word(State=#fiState{stack=[E1,E2|S], ip=IP}) ->
    {number, N1} = E1,
    {number, N2} = E2,
    State#fiState{stack=[{number,N1+N2}|S], ip=1+IP}.
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