Type Checking and Modules for Multi-Methods

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Chambers, Craig
Leavens, Gary
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Computer Science

Computer Science—the theory, representation, processing, communication and use of information—is fundamentally transforming every aspect of human endeavor. The Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University advances computational and information sciences through; 1. educational and research programs within and beyond the university; 2. active engagement to help define national and international research, and 3. educational agendas, and sustained commitment to graduating leaders for academia, industry and government.

The Computer Science Department was officially established in 1969, with Robert Stewart serving as the founding Department Chair. Faculty were composed of joint appointments with Mathematics, Statistics, and Electrical Engineering. In 1969, the building which now houses the Computer Science department, then simply called the Computer Science building, was completed. Later it was named Atanasoff Hall. Throughout the 1980s to present, the department expanded and developed its teaching and research agendas to cover many areas of computing.

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Two major obstacles hindering the wider acceptance of multi-methods are concerns over the lack of encapsulation and modularity and the absence of static typechecking in existing multi-method-based languages. This paper addresses both of these problems. We present a polynomial-time static typechecking algorithm that checks the conformance, completeness, and consistency of a group of method implementations with respect to declared message signatures. This algorithm improves on previous algorithms by handling separate type and inheritance hierarchies, abstract classes, and graph-based method lookup semantics. We also present a module system that enables independently-developed code to be fully encapsulated and statically typechecked on a per- module basis. To guarantee that potential conflicts between independently-developed modules have been resolved, a simple well-formedness condition on the modules comprising a program is checked at link-time. The typechecking algorithm and module system are applicable to a range of multi-method-based languages, but the paper uses the Cecil language as a concrete example of how they can be applied.


Copyright © 1995 by the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that new copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from Publications Dept, ACM Inc., fax +1 (212) 869-0481, or〈permissions@acm.org〉. Appendix copyright© Craig Chambers and Gary T. Leavens, 1995.