Re: obsessions with lexical and syntactic issues

albaugh@dms.UUCP (Mike Albaugh)
14 Nov 89 23:47:17 GMT

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obsessions with lexical and syntactic issues (1989-11-13)
Re: obsessions with lexical and syntactic issues albaugh@dms.UUCP (1989-11-14)
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Date: Tue Nov 14 15:47:18 1989
From: albaugh@dms.UUCP (Mike Albaugh)
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 14 Nov 89 23:47:17 GMT
References: <>
Organization: Atari Games Inc., Milpitas, CA

>From article <>,
    by (Robert R. Henry):
> All of this discussion on lexing and parsing makes me think that we're
> still in the 1960's or taking classes taught by theoreticians. It
> seems foolish to be fixated on issues that account for less than 20% of
> the compile time, and probably less than 5% of the compiler writer's
> time and surely less than .001% of the undetected errors in a
> compiler.
> Who >really< cares about syntax anyway?

I often feel this way, except for the times I'm trying to track
down a particularly obscure error message. If lexing/parsing is so
^&%&*^*& easy, then why have I never found a compiler that actually does
a decent job? It doesn't give me a whole lot of faith that they got
the _hard_ parts right :-)

> [We certainly do resemble the drunk who was looking for his glasses under
> the streelight because it was better lit there, although I must insist that
> the theory behind NFAs and DFAs for lexing and context-free grammars for
> parsing are interesting and worthwhile for the well-educated computer
> scientist to understand. ... ]

I agree in principle, but perhaps one of the major problems is
that these wonderful tools _may_ be a poor fit to the actual job. Another
case of "To a kid with a hammer, everything looks like a nail"? :-)


| Mike Albaugh (albaugh@dms.UUCP || {...decwrl!pyramid!}weitek!dms!albaugh)
| Atari Games Corp (Arcade Games, no relation to the makers of the ST)
| 675 Sycamore Dr. Milpitas, CA 95035 voice: (408)434-1709

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