Report Number: CSL-TR-77-149
Institution: Stanford University, Computer Systems Laboratory
Title: Interpretive machines
Author: Iliffe, John K.
Date: June 1977
Abstract: These lectures survey attempts to apply computers directly to high level languages using microprogrammed interpreters. The motivation for such work is to achieve language implementations that are more effective in some measure of translation, execution or response to the user than would otherwise be obtained. The implied comparison is with the established technique of compiling into a fixed general-purpose machine code prior to execution. It is argued that while substantial benefits can be expected from microprogramming it does not represent the best approach to design when the contributing factors are analyzed in a general system context, that is to say when wide performance range, multiple source language, and stringent security requirements have to be satisfied. An alternative is suggested, using a combination of interpretation and a primitive instruction set and providing security at the microprogram level.