A report from euroFORTH '97

Paul E. Bennett
peb@transcontech.co.uk


The EuroForth Conference was, yet again, upon us. After lunch on the Friday and despite the delay to the Russian delegation while they were in transit the programme was able to start after Steve Pelc managed a reshuffled running order. The formal programme can be viewed on the web or by getting a copy of the poceedings from MPE.

There was, from initial inspecion of the programme, plenty to wet our appetitesand provide some of the presentations exceeded expectations, providing a real WOW! factor. We kicked off with a presentation on the CLEAN System by Nick Nelson about their development of a Virtual PLC card that sat in a PC but was able to continue control of the laundry (or other system) it was connected to, despite the PC being turned off.

Wolf Wiegard presented his offerings of Objects in Holon Forth. This was essentially a report of his attempts to build structured object manager and developer with rapid prototyping and debugging.

Peter Knaggs, ever a contention raiser, presented some arguments for the type of improvements that Forth should be seeing. He compared the current status of Forth to that of Perl and highlighted areas where he felt Forth had been overtaken.

This theme continued with Howard Oakford's "Forth, Past, Present, and Future" in which Howard began to explain new features he would expect Forth to incorporate for multi-programmer, multi-system development. This theme was further explored, later on in the conference, by Paul Bennett in "Forth in Safety Critical Systems: Configuration and Certification."

Stephen Pelc of MPE presented a number of papers including an overview of the work they and Forth Inc., have been doing on Smart Card based systems. "A Portable Open Software Architecture for Industry" deals with work behind the Europay Open Terminal Architecture (OTA) and Open Card Architecture (OCA). He explained how the strategy was to achieve a reduction of Terminal Management Costs and reduce the £100 million of admitted losses through fraud on magstripe cards.

Several papers presented work in Windowed environments. Of these the most impressive was by Bernd Paysan who demonstrated MINOS (a Visual bigForth) and created a simple calculator application live (with some explanation) in less than three minutes. MINOS runs on top of Linux and Bernd's demonstration was probably the best advertisement for moving away from Microsoft products.

The MINOS library contains over 100 visual objects and the visual method creates appropriate class structures and Forth code. As Linux is the operating system basis. This provides a low cost (free but licencing terms applies to saleable applications at 250DM per licence) development for GUI for programmes. MINOS is fully portable as no assembly is used in the object library.

Paul Frenger provided some ammusement when he threw a number of eyeballs into the audience. We must assure the reader that these were in fact plastic eyeballs and no animal had suffered to provide this spectacle. The eyeballs were actually Paul Frengers calling card (quite a gimic). Paul explaned the connection between his previous Forth-hand work and the Artificial Vision project he was now working on. He then demonstrated some examples of techniques used to make some intelligence out of images gained by a camera.

Duncan Louttit, a regular advertiser in Forthwrite, presented observations on Real Time Maze Solving. He has come second to an H8 powered mouse in the IEE Micromouse Maze competition.

Speaking of competitions, John Lee announced the caricature in Forth contest. The Rules:

The Coding Caricature Contest

A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates the more prominent features or attributes of the chosen subject. Well, this contest requires the participants to write 'pseudo-FORTH' definitions that caricature well known real-life or fictional characters, or maybe even a conference delegate!

The rules are simple, each entry should have: The entrants name, word definition, subject of the caricature (for the hard of thinking organizer).

The winning entry will be the 'best' one where the criteria for 'best' is left to the discretion of the judges. The judges' decision is final, petty and probably open to most attempts of bribery.

Some examples:

example #1
: GuessWho
  BEGIN
    day @ 25 =
    month @ 12 =
    AND
  UNTIL
  child @ QUERY good =
  IF
    rePRESENT
  ELSE
    LEAVE
  THEN
;
(Santa Claus)

example #2

: GuessWho
  year @ 1997 >=
  left <
  AND
  IF
    true pm !
  THEN
;
(Tony Blair)

example #3

: GuessWho
  BEGIN
    $BADE CATCH
  UNTIL
  $BADE fCOSH
  $BADE DROP
  girl @ >BODY DROP
;
(James Bond)

The winning entries

  1. Paul Curtis' caricature of Peter Knaggs (First Place)
    On the Friday evening we went punting on the River Cherwell, this was followed by a river side Bar-B-Que. Peter, well ...
    : PUNT
      BEGIN
        POLE PUSH
        POLE PULL
      AGAIN
    ;
    
    : P=1
      ['] PUNT CATCH
      POLE-STUCK-EXCEPTION =
      IF
        DROP
        YELL EMIT   // I object, I did not make a sound - PjK
      THEN
      BBQ RETIRE
    ;
    
  2. Paul Frenger's caricature of Frankenstein's monster (Runner up)
    : Baron
      ." @ Castle"
      @ part body> /mod !
      remainder drop rot rot
      part >body + push
      lightening +
      ." it's alive!" see
      if  run body>  then  burn
    ;
    
    find baron and execute
    
  3. Duncan Louttit's caricature of Henry VIII (Runner up)
    : SOMEONE  (  n6 n5 n4 n3 n2 n1 -- n6  )
      LEAVE
      EXECUTE
      EXIT
      LEAVE
      EXECUTE
    ;
    

Best Papers

The best paper was Paul Frenger's "Forth and Artificial Vision".

The runners-up were Peter Knaggs' "Perl vs Forth" and Jonathan Morrish's "Rapid development of real time multi-sequence Control programmes".

On the menu

Meal times at Forth Conferences are always good times for open discssion. Here are some of the topics of discussions that took place during the breaks. The food was always superb during the whole weekend and I am sure many delegates gained an extra few kilogrammes in mass.

Saturday Lunch

Discussion about models for multiple timed processes ensued in the Dining hall. Whether it is better to have many timer variables as a block with an ISR decrementing the block of timers or performing individual tme-out calculations within the function. Not resolved and mrits of both are seen.

Saturday Night Dinner

The Formal Dinner was held in the magnificent St Edmunds Hall (near Queens College). Many delegates rose to the splendour of the occassion by adopting traditional DJ and Bow Tie (several instances of cheating on this last item). Excellent food (4 courses plus coffee and port) has been enjoyed throughout and many delegates must have increased their mass a little over the weekend.

During the port and coffee, after dinner speaking commenced. Steve (who claimed to be unacustomed....) was content to just pass a couple of messages and introduce the other speakers. Sergei Sidorov began this entertainment with a few words about the conferences and announced the location for next year (Dagstuhl Castle, October 2-4). Nick Nelson then regailed us all with tales of EuroForths on foreign soil and naked mixed saunas. The finale was by Malcolm Bugler reminiscing on his early days in his computing career.

Informal Presentations

Janet Nelson - Nick and Janet go to euroForth '96 (St. Petersburg). A tale of problems associated with car insurance, late visa arrivals and the trials and tribulations of motoring to St. Petersburg in Russia. A very amusing tale of a harowing journey.

Peter Knaggs announced that the JFARs Web Site is going online. This is the electronic version of the Journal of Forth Applications and Research. Papers are requested for the online JFARs but these may also appear in the printed version when enough are available. All papers submitted will be referreed prior to publication. As this process takes some time there are only two referreed papers available on-line already. Papers can be submitted via FTP or emailed to the regional editor - Larry Forsley (LPGForsley@aol.com), Nick Solntseff (ns@maccs.dcss.mcmaster.ca), Peter Knaggs (pjk@bcs.org.uk), and Sergei Baranov (sergei@iias.spb.su). More general FTP Services will also be available via the site.

http://dec.bournemouth.ac.uk/forth/jfar

The site will probably move shortly to: http://www.jfar.org (maybe by the time you get to read this). Peter Knaggs will be making official announcements in comp.lang.forth and Forth Dimensions.

Mike Beach (mjbkbeach@zetnet.co.uk) - Power Supply Test Software

Validation Plan written in a Restricted Formal English (based on Forth). Usefully near to a natural language for testers.

Linda Pelc and Tom Lee - Why Provide Tech Support

Workshop Sessions

Workshops have always been a part of Forth Conferences and EuroForth is no exception. Two sessions began this year, prompted by the issues raised by Paul Bennett and Peter Knaggs who chaired a workshop each.

Paul Bennett chaired the Software Source Versioning and Management workshop which followed on his own and Howard OakfordÂ’s presentations. Several issues came out, but most specifically related to the need for extra information to be buried within Forth source or code. There were some objections to doing this for each word individually but it was thought worthwhle on the basis of modules (lexicologically complete objects). The editing tools were felt to be the obvious target for change which minimises disruption of compiling words actions. It seems like this will be a long standing subject and a further article will be presented on this in Forthwrite and elsewhere.

Peter Knaggs chaired the Internationlisation Efforts for ISO/IEC Forth workshop. This followed on from his presentation on the subject, the aim of the workshop should be to maintain cross-readability of international Forth applications; to which end a consultation document should be produced for discussion by the ANS committee. A number of areas where discussed: Double Bytes Character Sets (DBCS), character/byte access, transient buffers, and currency. It was agreed that this was a topic of major inportance for European, African and Australian delegates and in need of further discussion. Anton Ertl agreed to host an emailing list for further discussion, while Peter Knaggs will edit a report on localising for consideration at euroForth '98.

Paul E. Bennett
peb@transcontech.co.uk