Group Title: Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering Technical Reports
Title: Hypertextual concurrent control of a lisp kernel
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Title: Hypertextual concurrent control of a lisp kernel
Series Title: Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering Technical Reports
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Stotts, P. David
Furuta, Richard
Affiliation: University of Florida
University of Maryland
Publisher: Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 1992
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Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Hypertextual Concurrent Control

of a Lisp Kernel*

P. David Stottst Richard Furuta +
Department of Computer and Department of Computer Science and
Information Sciences Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
University of Florida University of Maryland
Gainesville, FL 32611 College Park, MD 20742

Using the Trellis human/computer interaction model as an implementation vehicle, we demonstrate
how to use concurrency-supporting hypertext to provide visual displays of the execution flows through
a parallel Lisp program. In addition to displays, the hypertext interface allows injection of control
flow into an otherwise functional computation, and therefore provides reader control over the order of
evaluation of expressions. The resulting system, termed ATrellis, can be thought of as a concurrent control
flow browser for composing functional computations, providing a visual implementation of kernel-control
decomposition. The advantages of ATrellis are ease of exploring program side effects; ease of debugging
parallel code; aid in teaching functional languages; and the ability to construct hypertext documents
that have parallel execution semantics and flexible browsing behaviors.

Key words: functional programming, parallelism, kernel-control decomposition, Lisp, hypertext, exe-
cution visualization.

1 Introduction

Pratt introduced in 1978 a concept he called kernel-control decomposition [9] for separating the program text
that defines and executes control paths from the text that performs data state transformations. A more gen-
eralized form of this technique is now known as program slicing [14, 15, 4, 5]. Kernel-control decomposition
can be viewed as a pair of program slices: one on the control variables, and the second the complementary
slice. This form of analysis has been used for optimizations and other program transformations.
In this brief report, we illustrate a form of kernel-control decomposition that has evolved in an ongoing
visual programming and hypertext project called Trellis. Trellis is based on a parallel automaton (a timed
Petri net), and one of its interfaces is a graphical editor for constructing documents. Many other systems
have taken a graphical approach to the construction or visualization of parallel computation. Just to name a
few, consider Poker [10], Novis [6], and prograph [8, 7]. In a related fashion, the Linda family of languages [2,
1, 3] shares some common design goals with Trellis. Though Linda implementations have not been visual in
syntax, they have been based on the idea of superimposing a parallel control notation on an existing kernel
computation language such as C.
*This work is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers IRI-9007746 and
t Internet electronic mail address: pds@cis .ufl .edu.
SInternet electronic mail address:

In general, though, Trellis goes beyond other visual parallel languages in that it is intended to support
human-directed parallel computations. Trellis, then, is inherently a system for specifying human-computer
interactions. Since its semantics are those of concurrent computation, Trellis is especially appropriate for
collaboration support protocols and other application domains in which multiple users are interacting con-
currently within some information structure.
In the following section we briefly explain the Trellis human/computer interaction model and present a
specific realization of it called ATrellis, which differs from earlier Trellis implementations by containing an
embedded Lisp system. In section 4 we discuss one method of using ATrellis for visualization of parallelism:
expressing parallelized Lisp functions in browsable form to illustrate the parallelizing methods. In section
3 we show a less obvious, but perhaps more interesting, method of visualizing parallelism that we term
hyperprogramming. Section 5 concludes the report with a discussion of other ways ATrellis can be used
outside the domain of direct visualization. Due to our past development of Trellis concepts in the hypertext
domain, we will use the terms document and hyperprogram interchangeably throughout the report.

2 Trellis and ATrellis

The Trellis model has been formally defined in detail elsewhere [12, 13]; we include a brief informal description
here to aid the current discussion. Abstractly, a Trellis hypertext (document) is an annotated timed Petri
net. The information associated with the places is document content. The annotations on the transitions
are time limits.1 The net itself constitutes the static document structure. The execution state space of the
net defines the dynamic document structure.
Browsing the document is analogous to executing the Petri net, except that the normally nondeterministic
transition firings are directed with selections made by the readers of a document. During browsing, when a
token enters an empty place, the content of that place (if any) is presented for consumption. Any enabled
transitions are shown to the readers as selectable links (buttons). If a reader clicks on a button, the associated
transition is fired and tokens are moved around.
A Trellis system is a particular realization of the Trellis model with a client-server software architecture.
The Petri net model is implemented as an engine that has no visible interface but will respond to remote
procedure calls (RPC) for its services. Clients are written to present a visual interface, but they have no
inherent behavior; rather, they provide user access to the automaton (Petri net) that defines a behavior.
Each document is a separate parallel automaton. Several clients can check in with a document, allowing
multiple users to interact within its information structure. The particular semantics of multi-user interaction
is defined solely by the behavior of the server automaton. For example, if the server implements a classical
Petri net, then each reader will see the same state of the document, and actions by one reader will cause all
other readers to have their view altered as well; no direct interaction can occur among readers. If, however,
the server is a colored Petri net, then the document can differentiate one reader from another by token color,
and can provide more sophisticated interactions.
We have implemented ATrellis, discussed in this report, from the original aTrellis system having a classical
(timed) Petri net engine; most of our experimentation in hypertext and browsing semantics has been done
with this system. Currently we are building two other variants: xTrellis and o-Trellis. These are based on
a colored (timed) Petri net engine, and are intended for use in collaboration support systems for astronomy
image browsing and software process modeling respectively.

A Lisp kernel
The ATrellis system differs from previous Trellis implementations by having a Lisp susbsystem to provide a
rudimentary data state and arithmetic computation kernel. The result is a programming system that has
a functional kernel language and a separate parallel control notation. The editing client we have written
1Timing is fully explained in [13].

for creating ATrellis hyperprograms uses a graphical notation to express the control (Petri net), and normal
textual notation to express Lisp fragments.
However, unlike traditional languages, hyperprograms are primarily intended for intensive human/computer
interaction, so the computation kernel can only affect the control flow in limited ways, at well-defined places,
and in specific circumstances. This restricted arrangement allows better analysis of the possible actions
during execution, and is applicable to domains in which control decisions are made outside the computation
space. A good example is hypertext, where readers direct control flow in ways that are best modeled as
nondeterministic choice among alternatives.
In a ATrellis document, each transition can have some sequence of Lisp s-expressions, called an agent,
associated with it. When a transition is selected to fire, the tokens are advanced in the control net as always,
and its Lisp agent (if any) is executed.
We have used an old-style, dynamically scoped Lisp implementation called xlisp and adapted it for
programmatic invocation rather than terminal invocation. We needed the dynamic scoping primarily to
use the Lisp a-list feature as an attribute/value pair mechanism for storing and altering timing (and other)
properties of hyperprograms. In addition, using a Lisp system rather than directly implementing simple
attribute/value lists provided an arithmetic engine.

The ATrellis implementation
When ATrellis is activated, three browsers execute concurrently as interfaces for a document. These browsers
provide visual access to different aspects of the net's information structure and behavior. One interface is
an editor that shows a graphical representation of the net and its annotations, and allows construction and
alteration of the net itself. Another browser is the original content browser that has appeared in earlier
version of Trellis. This interface displays the content information (text files) associated with active places
(those containing tokens) during net execution. The third interface, the agent browser, has been created
specifically for use in ATrellis. It is basically a functional copy of the content browser with one difference:
instead of displaying the contents of active places, it displays in multiple windows the Lisp agents associated
with transitions that are enabled for firing.
Figure 1 shows screen images of the three browsers executing concurrently. The top two interfaces are
the browsers; the left one is the place content browser, and the right is the transition agent browser. The
bottom interface is the editor. Note that two transitions are enabled, and two Lisp segments are showing
in the top-right browser. The one labeled "clock.lsp" is associated with the transition called "clock", and
the agent labeled "dwell.lsp" is associated with the transition called I. ,. I:". The text visible in the top-left
browser is the content file associated with the place called; -!". The detailed behavior of this document
is explained in section 3.

3 Concurrent hyperprograms

The most interesting method for using ATrellis in visualizing parallelism is to recognize the combination
of nets and Lisp as a unique programming notation in itself, a combination of procedural and functional
languages in one execution vehicle. Concurrent programs can be designed to take specific advantage of this
marriage, and to employ the annotation and information display nature of the Trellis model for visuality.
We use the term hyperprogram to denote a Trellis structure authored specifically to take advantage of
all Trellis features (man/machine interaction, timing, information presentation, parallel control flow, Lisp
functions) in providing a highly interactive, hypertextual, browsable computation. In a hyperprogram, the
data transformations, if any, are not the primary ends of the computation; in fact, they may not be very
significant. In a hyperprogram, the interaction of the reader/user with the parallel control flow and with the
information annotations will often be the primary end of a computation. An early form of this concept has
been previously presented in detail [13]. In this report, we expand on the earlier concept by discussing the
added dimension of a Lisp kernel.

In hyperprogramming the Lisp agents are responsible for, among other things, setting traps and triggers
for the control net as they execute. It is a synergistic arrangement2, in which the control net's execution
depends (somewhat) on the behavior of the agents, and in which the agents collective behavior depends
(somewhat) on the behavior of the control net. An algorithm designed for hyperprogram realization must take
into account not only normal design criteria, but man/machine interactions as well, since these interactions
are the main methods of altering control flow.
The visualizing aspect of this form of hyperprogram comes in the emphasis on presentation of informa-
tion. These programs, inherently concurrent, will be highly visual due to the need to communicate control
information to and from the users. The interfaces will tend to provide direct manipulation of the control
structure and its annotative information.

An example: adaptation agents

To illustrate these ideas, consider the situation in hypertext authoring that originally compelled us to include
a Lisp kernel in Trellis. Adaptation is the automated alteration of a document's characteristics in response
to behavior exhibited by users of the document. It involves collecting information during document use,
making inferences and decisions based on this information, and creating appropriate physical changes in the
documents structure and parameters at appropriate times. One characteristic to adapt is the behavior of a
document, that is the timing of sequences, the provision of automated help, the representation of collections
in parallel vs. sequentially, etc. Another type of adaptation is to alter the structure of a document, that
is the information relation described by links. In this form of adaptation, sections of a document can be
hidden or made visible, or preferred paths identified.
Adaptation agents are a restricted form of script associated with links. Agents are invoked by button
clicks, and while executing use Lisp variables for their own purposes. An agent will define its variables,
associate them with appropriate net components for storage, and access them as needed for information
collection and decision making.
In the current implementation of ATrellis, we allow an author to associate an adaptation agent with any
transition in the net. This means that information gathering and decision making for adaptation will occur
only when a link is actually traversed. However, note that an agent may associate variables with any net
component; since these variables are actually stored as global Lisp atoms in the engine process, they are
persistent and exist from one execution of an agent to the next.
In the previous ATrellis document example, the adaptation of help window popup timing is done with
three agents. The initialization of variable values is done with an agent called init.lsp associated with a
detached (0,0) transition that is enabled when the document is first browsed:

(setq account 10)
(setq dwell 0)
(setq clock 0)
(setq clicks 0)

The counting of events is accomplished with a document clock implemented with a detached self-loop, which
increments every five Trellis clock cycles. This agent is called clock.lsp:

(setq clock (+ clock 5))

The main work is done by an agent called dwell.lsp, attached to all other transitions that are not auto-timed.
It computes the running average dwell time from the document clock, and decides when to reset the values
of attributes like min and max:

(setq clicks (+ clicks 1))
(cond ( (eq clicks account)
2As contrasted with classical programs, in which there is only tight coupling between the kernel and the control parts.

(setq clicks 0)
(setq dwell (/ (+ dwell (/ (- clock oclock) account ) 2))
(setq min (* 3 dwell))
(setq max (* 6 dwell))
(setq oclock clock)

As the example shows, the goal is to provide simple agents which, using the timing mechanism as described
in the next section, provide useful forms of adaptation.
In the editor window of Figure 1 locate the transitions named "help". It is not visible in this screen, but
these transitions have the Lisp atoms min and max associated as their timing attributes. During browsing,
whenever a transition becomes enabled, the engine checks to see if variables are bound to its timing attributes.
If not, then the times are constants and the author-supplied values are always used. If variable are attached,
then the values of the variables are obtained from the Lisp a-list, and these values are substituted as the
new timing figures for the transition. Note that though ATrellis contains a full Lisp sub-system, it is really
used in this example as a convenient way (via the a-list) to get a variable/value structure into a document.
We do not consider the agents in this technique to be full-blown Lisp programs. They are assumed to be
small enough to execute rapidly, in the time a reader would normally expect link traversal to take during

Another example: dining philosophers

As further illustration of concurrent hyperprogramming in Trellis with Lisp, consider thye canonical concur-
rency example of Dining Philosophers. An implementation of four philosophers is shown in Figure 3. Shown
is the initial screen when the document is invoked, with a view giving the names of the various components.
Throughout this example, the content browser is not important, since no significant content has been asso-
ciated with places in this simple illustration. Thus the screens show the content browser covered mostly by
the agent browser, which is in turn covered partially by the editor.
Figure 4 shows the timing view of the initial state. Notice that the transitions (labeled "grab") that
would invoke the eating phase of each philosopher are timed as ",I ,iii This means that no delay is required
before one may be fired, and that an infinite time must pass before it fires automatically; this actually means
it will never fire automatically.
The editor allows agent evaluation to be turned off, and it allows timing to be turned off as well. In such
a state, the document can be browsed at will, and the concurrent structure of the philosophers simululated
at a reader's speed and following a reader's train of thought. However, with timing and agents on, the
adaptation implemented in this document causes a round-robin schedule to take place, using the timing to
trigger each philosopher in turn. When the button labeled "init" in the first screen is invoked, the agent
labeled "init.lsp" is executed, causing the timings on transitions to chage to the ones shown in Figure 5.
Now philosopher one is set to automatically fire after 4 seconds, and all others set for 40 seconds. Thus
philosopher one will fire before any others time out.
The adaptation agents shown in these figures indicate what happens when a philosopher enters the eating
phase. For example, the agent called "thinkingl.lsp" will run when the "grab" button is invoked, moving
philosopher one into eating. This agent changes the timings on its own button back to "1, Il like the
others, and then changes the timings on philosopher one's "full" button to "2,4". Thus after 4 seconds,
philosopher one will give up the forks and return to thinking. The agent "thinkingl.lsp" will run when this
event happens, causing the timings on the "full" button to revert to I11 I,1 and the timings on philosopher
two's "grab" button to become "2,4". In this way control passes around the net. Figure 6 shows the state
of the document after philosopher one has passed to philosopher two, which has then begun eating.
The buttons labeled -I..'-. i" and "faster" have agents that will appropriately alter the .... variable
from which all the timing values are determined. Thus a browser can speed up or retard the execution of
the round-robin. Figure 7 shows the timings after two clicks on the -I..-, i" button.

Other scheduling policies can be simululated by writing appropriate agents to adjust the timing triggers
as needed. We also repeat that no contents have been given for places to keep the example fairly simple.
However, appropriate documents for the actions of philosophers while "eating" and "thinking" can be dis-
played. In addition, if real action is needed, then the execution of Lisp segments as content of places can be
simulated as shown in Figure 8. Here an extra place and an extra transition is inserted into each philosopher
between the display stages of "thinking" and "eating". This new place neads no content and no name, as it
serves simply to enable the new transition. The transition has the desired Lisp segment (called here "eat-
ing.action.lsp") attached as its adaptation agent (though adaptation is not really the goal in this case), and
the timing on the transition is set to always be "0,0". When the "grab" button is invoked, the intermediate
transition fires instantly (after 0 time units have passed, in effect), running the Lisp action and then passing
control on to the display section called "eating". This intermediate action is invisible and unknown to the

4 Visible parallel Lisp by extraction

Another method for using ATrellis to visualize parallelism is by generating Trellis structures as by-products of
compilation. A simple parallelising Lisp system can be created, for example, by generating appropriate Petri
net structures to cause concurrent evaluation of argument expressions. Parallel execution can be simulated
then by executing (browsing) the Trellis structure. As tokens are moved around the control flow net, the
corresponding Lisp segments (attached to the transitions) are evaluated. As an example of this approach
consider the Lisp function calling tree shown in Figure 2. The Petri net structure representing this calling
tree effectively passes control down to the bottom nodes, and as control is passed back up, the translation-
manufactured Lisp code fragments attached to the transitions are invoked. These evaluate the arguments
and compute partial functions, storing the values in the a-list for use higher in the tree as control passes
further back to the root. The final click evaluates the top level function using the results of the argument
As control passes back up the tree, the Lisp browser displays the text of the Lisp functions that are about
to be manually invoked. In our examples, we use the annotations at the places to display the original Lisp
functions, those that were altered to save intermediate argument values.
By varying the order in which the concurrent alternatives are invoked in the ATrellis interface, the
execution effects of different argument evaluation strategies can be explored. A breadth-first exploration of
the calling tree would simulate eager evaluation, whereas a more selective exploration would simulate lazy
This method is similar in spirit to our previous experiment in browsing various aspects of CSP programs
(like the message flow, for example) [11].

5 Conclusions

We have illustrated a visual programming system that operates in the domain of hypertext and hyperpro-
rams. This system contains a parallel control flow structure imposed on a functional computation kernel.
As a concurrent control structure is browsed, Lisp segments that are eligible for execution are displayed,
along with the primary content information in the document. Some interaction of the Lisp with the control
structure is allowed, particularly in the setting and alteration of timing triggers. The resulting hyperpro-
gramming structure allows browsing of the concurrent structure to be done in a train-of-thought manner,
or as a self-propelled demonstration. With hyperprograms we show two main forms of visualization: direct
programming in Trellis, using its kernel-control separation as a unique visual programming vehicle; and de-
rivitive visualization, in which a compiler or other translator extracts some concurrency property of interest
from a source (such as a full Lisp program) and generates a Trellis document to represent the property for


The authors wish to recognize Greg Drew for his implementation efforts in modifying the xlisp system for
inclusion in our Trellis prototype.


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I I : I I,
" I ,.. II i

sysdiag:*:0:1:01d System Diagnostic:/usr/d
sundiag:*:0:1:System Diagnostic:/usr/diag/s

(setq clicks (+ clicks 1))
(cond ( (eq clicks account)
(setq clicks 0)
(setq dwell (/ (+ dwell (/ (- clock oclock) account ) 2)

(setq min (* 3 dwell))
(setq max (* 5 dwell))
(setq oclock clock)



ys1 sys3


Done done

Figure 1: Three ATrellis browsers.


Inlwo fnFive I fnTwo

Figure 2: Calling tree for a Lisp function.

Change labels on nodes.

Figure 3: Initial Dining Philosophers screen.

Change transition timings.

Figure 4: Timings for initial Dining Philosophers.

Phil3 thinking (setq inla (/ speed 2))
grab gr. (setq inib inf)
I'm hungry (setq outla speed)
where are 1 (setq outib (* 2 speed))

Phill thinking (setq in3a (/ speed 2))
grab grab (setq in3b inf)
grab I'm hungry grab (setq out3a speed)
where are 1 (setq out3b (* 2 speed))

Phil2 thinking t(setq in2a (/ speed 2))
(grb setq in2b inf)
grab I'm hungry g (setq out2a speed)
where are i (setq out2b (* 2 speed))

I'm hungry
where are


(setq in4a (/ speed 2))
(setq in4b inf)
(setq out4a speed)
(setq out4b (* 2 speed))

Manually fire transitions.



Figure 5: Timings after firing Init button.

O inf

O,in ~ O,inf

SExitAgent Browser 2 re
[Exit Content Browser] x (Exit Agent Browser 2 more...

To alter steer
execution fast

I'm hungry
where are



Phil2 i t eating2.1
Got Iem N I

Got em! N


( (not (eq speed 1))
(setq speed (- spee
(setq inf (* 20 spe

(setq in3a (/ speed 2))
(setq in3b inf)
(setq out3a speed)
(setq out3b (* 2 speed))

(setq outza int)
(setq out2b inf)
(setq in3a speed)
(setq in3b (* 2 speed))

(setq speed (+ speed 1))
(setq inf (* 20 speed))

Increment the number of tokens in a place.



'I '

0 B

0, innf

O,in-f 0,6 ,inf

Figure 6: State after timed execution.


SxitAgent Browser 2 mre
[Exit Content Browser] x [Exit Agent Browser 2 more...



To alter steer
execution fast

( (not (eq speed 1))
(setq speed (- spee
(setq inf (* 20 spe

Phil3 thinking l(setq inla (/ speed 2))
grab grab (etq inlb inf)
SI'm hungry (setq outla speed)
where are 1 (setq outib (* 2 speed))

Phill thinking (setq in3a (/ speed 2))
(setq in3b inf)
grab I'm hungry grab (setq out3a speed)
where are 1 (setq out3b (* 2 speed))

I'm hungry
where are

slower. ls

(setq speed (+ speed 1))
(setq inf (* 20 speed))

Timing is suspended ...




0, i nf

O,in-f 0,6,inf

Figure 7: State after two clicks on "-I...- i button.

--iit A t Brow-ser 2 mIre
[Exit Content Browser] [Exit Agent Browser x 2 more...

Figure 8: Simulation of Lisp as place content.

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