Domain Specific Languages: past, present and future

DIKU Talk by professor Mary Sheeran, Chalmers University, Sweden.


I have worked on Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) for all of my research career, and have seen how their popularity ebbs and flows. In hardware design, researchers who work on the use of modern programming languages or, worse still, on "correct by construction" methods almost always end up being ignored. The standard hardware description languages System Verilog and VHDL reign supreme, and we are left with a daunting post-hoc verification problem. We went wrong somewhere.

Maybe things will work out better on the software side? 

At the Usenix Conference on Domain Specific Languages in 1997, Paul Hudak spoke on "The Promise of Domain-Specific Languages". He argued that "a well-designed DSL should be the ultimate abstraction for a particular application domain, capturing precisely the semantics of an application, no more and no less". In software development, DSLs are hot once again, both in computer science and in software engineering. Research funding is easier to get and industrial collaborators are open to the use of strange specification and programming languages. The HIPERFIT Centre in Copenhagen and a well-funded project on Resource Aware Functional Progrmming at Chalmers are examples of this positive trend. This time we have to deliver! 

In this talk, I will look at current research in DSLs that may help us to deliver. I will also point to areas where we need to collaborate more effectively if we are to succeed this time. The talk can be viewed as a call to arms, and I am hoping that some members of the audience will answer the call.

Short Bio:

Mary Sheeran is Professor in Computer Science at Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg.

In the early 1980s, she worked on a domain specific language (DSL) for hardware design, based on Backus' FP. She even studied patterns or combinators for building hardware, but failed to call them design patterns. In recent years, she has been working with Ericsson on a DSL for digital signal processing algorithm design and implementation (in software). Building on this and on their expertise in testing, the Functional Programming Group at Chalmers has recently obtained substantial funding to work on the use of DSLs in Resource Aware Functional Programming. There are many parallels with the HIPERFIT Centre, and so great opportunities for scientific collaboration.

Host: the APL Group

The talk is followed by a small reception.