Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some thoughts

Ok, I decided to stop fighting Haskell on the particular technical issues, and instead sit back and think a little.

What is an object? From the implementors point of view, of course :-)
Let's assume in E tradition that this is something that upon receiving a message can change its state and post a set of messages along the references it holds.

Nothing interesting so far. It becomes better when we notice that multiple objects often share some logic, which we might call "code" or "class" or "prototype". Let's call it code. What is this code? In Haskell, I postulate, it is natural to see this code as a function from message and object state to set of deliveries and new state. But what is the exact type of this function? Here some experience with join calculus suggest a nice trick: both the state and the messages can be modeled uniformly!
My current proposal is to say that object code is a function of type:
(STM i1, ..., STM im) -> (STM o1, ..., STM on)
The inputs are transactions that represent reading either public "facets" or private "state", and the outputs are transactions that represent either sending messages to other objects or updating private state (in a roundabout way - the transaction must be executed to obtain the "written" value - this simplifies composability of multiple code functions).
(Of course this type can be curried, but I like its simmetry).
is and os stand for (possibly polymorphic) types (not sure yet how to better handle multiple messages on the same ouput - and then, maybe on the same input, as well?).
Note that none of the output types mention the identity of the receiver - they are indeed types of messages, not of deliveries.

So how and who attaches the receivers to the messages? I say it is responsibility of (the instance of) the object that uses this "code". Note that I ended up with three parties: authors of the code, users of the code, and authors of the framework (that's me!) that are responsible for helping users to use the code easier. Now if only this third party knew how to achieve that :-)

2 comments:

David Hopwood said...

In languages derived from Actors, the conventional term for what objects share is "behaviour".

Andris Birkmanis said...

Thanks for the tip!