Thursday, 9 June 2011

Reprint: Architecture of Information Language 1990

The Architecture of an Information Language

C. F. Reynolds

Computer Journal
Vol 33, pp 155-163, 1990

This paper describes the CODIL information language in terms of an infinitely recursive model for poorly structured information. This approach is significantly different from the established approaches to programming language and data base theory. The paper then shows how the model has been adapted to work efficiently in the existing CODIL and MicroCODIL interpreters.
  Full text (pdf)


  1. E,F. Codd. A relational model of data for large shared data banks. Comm ACM 13, 377-387 (1970)
  2. International Computers Ltd. UK Patent 1,265,006 (1968)
  3. D. Omrani. Some studies of the relational data base and the CODIL language. Ph.D. Thesis, Brunel University (1979).
  4. C.F. Reynolds, CODIL: The importance of flexibility. The Computer Journal 14, 217-220 (1971a)
  5. C.F. Reynolds, CODIL: The CODIL Language and its interpreter. The Computer Journal 14 327-332 (1971b).
  6. C.F. Reynolds, An evolutionary approach to artificial intelligence. Proceedings, Datafair '73 314-320 (1973)
  7. C.F. Reynolds, A data base system for the individual research worker. Proceedings, International Symposium, Technology of Selective Dissemination of Information 1-8 (1976)
  8. C.F. Reynolds, G. Sutton and M. Shackel, Using CODIL to handle poorly structured information. Proceedings, Medical Informatics Europe, 465-474 (1978a)
  9. C.F. Reynolds, The Design and Use of a Computer Language based on Production System Principles. Brunel University, Technical Report CSTR 15 (1978b)
  10. C.F. Reynolds, A psychological approach to language design. Proceedings, Workshop on Computer Skills and Adaptive Systems, 77-87 (1978c)
  11. C.F. Reynolds, CODIL as an information processing language for university use. I.U.C.C. Bulletin 3, 56-58 (1981)
  12. C.F. Reynolds, A software package for electronic journals, 7th International Online Information Meeting, 111-118 (1983)
  13. C.F. Reynolds, MicroCODIL as an information technology teaching tool. University Computing 6 71-75 (1984)
  14. C.F. Reynolds, A microcomputer package for demonstrating information processing concepts. Journal of Microcomputer Applications 8 1-14 (1985)
  15. C.F. Reynolds, MicroCODIL Manual (and software) CODIL Language Systems, (1986)
  16. C.F. Reynolds, Human factors in systems design: a case study, In People and Computers III, edited D. Daiper and R. Winder. Cambridge University Press (1987)
  17. C.F. Reynolds, Introducing expert systems to pupils. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (in press) (1988)

This paper was drafted in 1986 and described the changes that were the result of two main changes, The first was the redesign of the software to allow interactive working when the University upgraded its teaching systems - with CODIL supporting teaching packages for classes of up to 125 students. The second was to explore whether the basic algorithms were so simple that they could fit onto one computer chip of the type that started to become available circa 1980. To test the idea it was decided to implement a demonstration package that would work on a BBC Microcomputer which had a mere 25K bytes for all functions including the display!. The need to think small actually led to a far better understanding of the approach and the resulting system was logically far more powerful than the far bigger main frame version. However because of the minute size of the BBC Computer it was not possible to fit in extra features, such as dynamic learning and fuzzy logic, at the same time.
It is therefore perhaps appropriate to look at what the1992 review by Gersh Voldman published in ACM Computing Reviews said. Two paragraphs summaries the main features and the review ended "This paper aims to investigate the design of a small multi-purpose language, but the number of demons used in the project makes it ultimately unrealizable."
How very nice. I am sure that the author of the review regularly used computers which had many Mbytes of memory - plus access to much more paged memory and a processor several orders of magnitude faster than a BBC Computer. He ignored the fact that I had demonstrated that my approach was simple enough to fit (apart from a few small extras) in what, in 1992, would have been considered a very underpowered toy computer.|Because I wasn't able to demonstrate everything at once on a computer many orders of magnitude less powerful to those in common use in university research departments and elsewhere it was appropriate to tell the world my research was impossible rubbish.
As it happened (see The History of CODIL) I was not upset by the review - because I didn't see it until recently. In 1988, for health related reasons, the serious work on CODIL was abandoned, two years before the Computer Journal paper appeared in print.

For a very different opinion see the many reviews by people who have actually used MicroCODIL.

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