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Lisp and Reflective Tower in JS

lisp.js is an interpreter capable of running a dialect of elisp called hlisp.

The folder tower contains a port of the hlisp-interpreter written in hlisp and a program for starting the Reflective Tower.

Contents

Lisp.js

REPL

Running lisp.js starts a REPL:

$ node lisp
h> (if (not (eq? (+ (* 10 2) 20) 400)) 'apple 'orange)
apple
h> (let (k 3) (+ k 6))
9
h> (call (lambda (x y) (* y x)) 2 44)
88
h> (print (cdr (assoc 'title (json (req 'https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1)))))
delectus aut aute
h>
h> (set 'recursive (lambda (x y) (if (eq? x 0) y (recursive (- x 1) (+ y x))))
[Function]
h> (recursive 5 0)
15

Library

lisp.js exports functions: tokenize, parse, interpret, run

Using run function to execute a program:

const { run } = require("./lisp.js");

const program = `
(defun do-request (url)
    (print (cdr (assoc 'title (json (req url))))))

(do-request 'https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/todos/1)`;

console.log(run(program));

Concurrency

The interpreter uses promises internally. The function fork just returns a promise that can be waited on by join.

(defun hello ()
  (progn
    (print "concurrent hello")
    (print "concurrent hello")
    (+ 5 5)))

(let (k (fork (hello)))
  (progn
    (print "hello")
    (join k)))

;; Results in:

h> (let (k (fork (hello))) (progn (print "hello") (join k)))
concurrent hello
hello
concurrent hello
10

Builtins

Full list of builtins: builtins.md

Roadmap

  • Macros
  • Optimization
    • Tail-call optimization
  • Quoted lists (?)

Reflective Tower

tower/full_port_lisp.lisp is a port of the interpreter, written in the interpreted hlisp itself.

Because this interpreter can also interpret itself, mutliple instances of the interpreter can be nested, making a tower of interpreters. It is possible to manipulate interpreters while they are running. Doing so, then going down a level in the tower, the language will have changed. Any part of the interpreters' execution can be inspected from any level, making the tower "Reflective".

This is illustrated by the map function. It's not a builtin in any store, but part of the ported interpreter source code. It lives in the store-variable of the level l + 1 interpreter, meaning it's a variable in level l.

The numbering of the levels start at 0. Level 0 is the most deeply nested interpreter and thus actually the top of the tower. The level 0 interpreter is interpreted by the level 1 interpreter, and so on. It's enumerated with this direction because one of the tower implementations has infinite levels.

level 0
level 1
level 2
...
level 99
...
infinity

So, when moving, for example, from level 0 to level 1, instead of saying we're moving to the interpreter running below, we say we're going up a "meta" level.

From here on, in this paper, levels and movements between them will be reffered to in this nomenclature.

Recursive Interpreter Tower

The tower folder contains two hlisp interpreter ports capable of interpreting themselves recursively, building interpreter towers.

They are self-interpreters and are meta-circular.

full_port_lisp.lisp contains a complete port of the js-lisp interpreter, this interpreter is slow when nesting 4-5 instances.

lisp.lisp is a lightweight implementation of the interpreter relying on a universal store of "builtins" defined in the host interpreter for parsing and interpreting. It provides the universal interpret function with the AST and a interpreter specific store, called a "level store". Each interpreter is still interpreted by the level above, but if an interpreter doesn't contain an explicit definition of a function the universal store is used to run the function. This is similar to the approach used by S.Barnes [2].

Starting the recursive tower

5 levels of nested interpreters:

node lisp
h>
h> (load "tower/lisp.lisp")
h> (init-tower 5)
lisp-0> 

Infinite Tower

infinite_lisp.js

The recursive nature of lisp.lisp, which thightly nests and implicitely links the levels, made it hard to have an infinite tower. Therefore, the infinite-tower implementation is made with a tower controller that manages execution from outside the tower. The controller lives in infinite_lisp.js, and injects appropriate stores and keeps track of which interpreter should run what code.

This tower uses the same principle as lisp.lisp, with universal store short-circuiting the execution.

Starting the infinite tower

node infinite_lisp.js
lisp-0> 

Tower functions

Functions for navigating and executing code in the tower.

    Name     Explanation
em (em QUOTATION) Execute-meta. Executes quoted code on the interpreter level above.
em-cont (em-cont) Execute-meta-continue. Continues the repl at the interpreter level above.
old-cont (old-cont OBJECT) Executes code on the current interpreter level, and passes the return value to the intepreter running below. And continues execution at that level.

Unbound variable rescue

If you at any point use an unbound variable, the tower will pause execution at the current level and jump up to the meta level. From the meta-level, once you (old-cont VALUE) the paused level will continue execution substituting the unbound variable for the old-cont-value.

Small example:

lisp-0> (+ 5 y)
Variable not bound: y
Moving up
lisp-1> (old-cont 6)
11
lisp-0> 

Tower usage

Once you have started your tower of choice, here is how to use it:

lisp-0> (em-cont)
lisp-1>
lisp-1> (old-cont)
[]
lisp-0> (em '(set 'y 77))
77
lisp-0> (em 'y)
77
lisp-0> y
Variable not bound: y
Moving up
lisp-1> y
77
lisp-1> (old-cont y)
77
lisp-0>
lisp-0> (em '(em '(set 'z 66)))
66
lisp-0> (+ 5 z)
Variable not bound: z
Moving up
lisp-1> (old-cont z)
Variable not bound: z
Moving up
lisp-2> (old-cont z)
71
lisp-0>
lisp-0> (plus 2 4)
Variable not bound: plus
Moving up
lisp-1> (old-cont +)
6
lisp-0> 
lisp-0> (em 'level)
1

Transform hook

In the tower interpreters an extra function, transform, is used between the parse and interpret function calls. By default it's the identity function returning an unmodified AST. Changing this function allows you to easily change the language without messing with the parse function.

Using the transform hook to change the language of a running interpreter:

lisp-0> (em-cont)
lisp-1> (defun make-negative (ast) (if (eq? (length ast) 0) nil (cons (if (eq? (car ast) "+") "-" (car ast)) (make-negative (cdr ast)))))
[Function]
lisp-1> (defun transform (ast) (list (make-negative (car ast))))
[Function]
lisp-1> (old-cont)
undefined
lisp-0> (+ 5 4)
1
lisp-0>

References

  1. An Interpreted Scheme Dialect with a Reflective Tower
  2. Collapsing Towers of Interpreters

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