ICFP '99 Contest Solution




Team TAL


Dan Grossman, danieljg@cs.cornell.edu

Fred Smith, fms@cs.cornell.edu

Dave Walker, walker@cs.cornell.edu

Stephanie Weirich, sweirich@cs.cornell.edu

Steve Zdancewic, zdance@cs.cornell.edu


This document describes the TAL solution to the ICFP'99 programming

contest solution.  It is divided into two parts. The first part describes the

functional language (TALx86) that we have adopted to solve the problem.

The second part describes our optimal linear-time solution.



The Functional Language


    Our submission is in TALx86, a strongly typed functional language that

encourages an explicit continuation-passing style and supports

mutually recursive modules. We were encouraged to use this language

when we learned that the competition would allow us to run our program

on an interpreter implemented in hardware. We are grateful to the

Intel Corporation for developing this interpreter.

    A basic introduction to the terms and primitive constructors of the

language is helpful, so we provide such an introduction below.

However, those programmers experienced in using functional languages

may prefer to skip this tutorial and jump right into the example code

we have provided as a solution to programming contest. We believe the

explicit type annotations on distinguished TALx86 continuations make

the code essentially self-documenting.  In addition, the file tal.el

is an emacs-mode suitable for source editing and viewing.

    A TAL module is an ordered list of declarations followed by an ordered

record of continuations followed by an ordered record of primitive

values. In the concrete syntax, these components, or "segments", are

delineated by the reserved words, "CODE" and "DATA". We focus on the

ordered record of continuations since it is the most useful for the

TALx86 programmer.

    The _simplest_ way to understand how to construct and manipulate these

continuations is to view them as syntactic sugar for a strongly-typed,

closed, continuation-passing lambda calculus augmented with a number

of primitive operations. TALx86 also provides convenient support

for traditional imperative operations by encouraging a store-passing

style and by providing syntactic support for composing store-passing

continuations. In fact, much of the power and expressiveness of

our system revolves around the continuation composition operator,

or CCO.

    In the concrete syntax, the CCO is the newline character, generally

created by pressing the "Enter" key on a PC keyboard. Given two

continuations c1 and c2, the CCO creates a new continuation c3 with

arguments s and k. In familiar terms, c3 may be thought of as,

\ s k . c1 s (\ s' . (c2 s' k))

    The type of a continuation is expressed by stating the types of state

and continuations which it may consume. The most important part of a

state type is the "register file type" which is a record type with 8

fields. (Programmers often express frustration that this type does

not admit wider records, but Intel has remained unresponsive.)

    The reason we have chosen TALx86 as our source language is that we

feel that it contains primitives at an appropriate level of abstraction

for completing this task. In particular, we believe its vast collection

of arithmetic operations and the efficient mechanisms for composing

computations will give our team the edge we need when it comes to

computing the complicated cost metrics that we have determined

constitute the bottleneck. Although some observers may claim that

the TALx86 primitives are somewhat low-level, we defend our choice by

pointing out that the primitives are asymmetric enough to allow a very

compact encoding (so there isn't quite as much typing as you might think,

if you use the TALx86 binary format).


Optimal solution in linear time


    Our solution uses well-known properties of the plus operator on the

Pentium architecture. Since the contest specified that our program

would be run on a Pentium, we assume that the program to test the size

of our output will also be run on a Pentium. Therefore, the

reasonable semantics to ascribe to the + operator in the definition of

program size is 32-bit addition on a Pentium processor. Obviously,

the smallest programs are those with a size that is a multiple of 2^32.

(Since size normally connotes the impossibility of negative values,

the sizes we compute should be interpreted as unsigned 32-bit


    To create a program with size a multiple of 2^32, we exploit the size of

the case statement, in particular the span of the arms. We simply

replace the body of the first rule in the program (call it s), with

the following equivalent one (where x is a meta-variable explained


(CASE (VAR "state") ((ARM -2147483648 s)

(ARM x s))


We note that for any int x, this statement is well-formed and

equivalent to s. It simply remains to identify an optimal value for

x. Our program first computes the size of the whole program (call it

SIZE_P) and the size of s (call it SIZE_S). We would like an x such


2^32 = SIZE_P + 10 + SIZE_S + SIZE_S + (x + 2^31 + 1)


x = 2147483647 - SIZE_P - 10 - SIZE_S - SIZE_S

where the symbol "-" designates subtraction mod 2^32 (see Intel

Architecture Software Developer's manual, Volume 2, pages 3-448 and 3-449

under the title "SUB" for a more precise specification).

    We also handle one exceptional case: When presented the empty program,

we output the empty program. Since this program has size 0, we remain

optimal even in this case.