Programming Languages

Imperative Languages

Lecture slide: click here
Names, binding, scope, lifetime, nesting, control structures. Readings: Scott, ch 3


Mutable variables, values, functions, types, type constructors, classes, modules/packages, execution points (labels), execution points with environment (continuation).


A binding is an association of two things. The first is usually a name.
Binding time is the time at which the association is made. It can be at: language design time (semantics of most language constructs), language implementation time (implementation dependent semantics), compile time, link time or run time.
Static binding means before run time, dynamic binding means during run time. For example, virtual methods in C++ are dynamically bound.

Scope and lifetime

Scope is the region of program text where a binding is active, thus a space. Lifetime is the period of time between the creation of an entity and its destruction, thus a time span.


Three different objects in memory:
  • static objects: lifetime of entire program execution. e.g., global and static variables.
  • stack objects: from the time the function or block is entered until the time it is exited. e.g., local variables.
  • heap objects: arbitrary lifetimes. e.g., dynamically allocated objects like those created using new.


Two major scoping disciplines:
  • static scoping: binding of a name is given by its declaration in the innermost enclosing block.
  • dynamic scoping: binding of a name is given by the most recent declaration encountered at runtime.

Memory allocation

  • Static: allocated once at compile time (usually in protected memory). Usually include: Strings, constants, static variables.
  • Stacks: allocated in frames on a first-in last-out basis. Frames usually store: actual parameters, temporaries, local variables, bookkeeping information and return address.
  • Heap: allocated from main memory according to an allocation policy like first-fit, best-fit, etc.

Control flows

Basic topics are in the slides.

Serial copy

Copy a chuck of memory from one place to another. A trivial inefficient implementation in C:
void send(int *to, int *from, int count){
do { /* precondition: count > 0 */
*to++ = *from++;
} while (--count > 0);
Solution (unstructured flow, Duff’s device):
Lecture recording at 1:35:00
void send(int *to ,int * from, int count){
register n = (count + 7) / 8;
switch (count % 8) {
case 0: do { *to++ = *from++;
case 7: *to++ = *from++;
case 6: *to++ = *from++;
case 5: *to++ = *from++;
case 4: *to++ = *from++;
case 3: *to++ = *from++;
case 2: *to++ = *from++;
case 1: *to++ = *from++;
} while (--n > 0);
Why 8? Because that was the size of the cache back then. Being bigger than that would cause cache overflow thus cache miss.