Robby Findler seminar and guest lecture


Macros matter: effectively building lots of programming languages
Robby Findler
Northwestern University & PLT
Monday, November 14, 2016

Building new programming languages from whole cloth is a difficult proposition at best. Macro system provide an alternative; they support the construction of new programming languages from existing pieces, while still providing the flexibility to radically change the syntax and semantics of the programming language.

In this talk, I will give a high-level overview of the myriad of programming languages that Racket supports, as well as an overview of the research area of macros, showing what can be accomplished with them and introducing some of the associated technical challenges (and their solutions).

Robby Findler is currently an Associate Professor at Northwestern University, and received his PhD from Rice University in 2002. His research area is programming languages and he focuses on programming environments, software contracts, and tools for modeling operational semantics. He maintains DrRacket, the program development environment for the programming language Racket and he co-authored the book _How to Design Programs_, a textbook for teaching introductory programming.

(URCS seminar announcement)


(CSC 253/453 Guest Lecture)  Redex: A Language for Lightweight Semantics Engineering

Professor Robby Findler, Northwestern University

Redex is a programming language designed to support semantics engineers as they experiment with programming language models.  To explore a model, an engineer writes down grammars, type systems, and operational semantics in a notation inspired by the programming languages literature. Redex breathes life into the model, building typing derivations, running example expressions, and using random generation to falsify claims about the model.

This talk gives an overview of Redex, motivating its design choices and giving a sense of how it feels to program in Redex. Then the talk dives into some of the techniques that Redex uses to generate random expressions.

A video by Prof. Findler on Redex

CSC 253 Fall 2016

CSC 253/453 Dynamic Language & Software Development

Prerequisites: CSC 252 and CSC 254 are required for CSC 453 and recommended for others. Familiarity with a dynamic programming language such as Python.
Crosslisted: TCS 453

This course studies dynamically-typed programming languages and modular software development. Topics include principles and practice of modular design, functional and object-oriented programming techniques, software engineering concepts, software correctness and reliability, programming tools, and design examples. Ruby is used as the main instruction language. The lessons complement those in traditional compilers and programming languages courses, which focus mainly on statically-typed languages and individual algorithms rather than system design. A significant portion of the assignment is a group project.

Teaching Staff and office hours:  Prof. Chen Ding, Fridays 11am to 12pm in CSB 720; John Jacobs, Thursdays 3:30-4:30pm in CSB 720.

Preparation (before first class):

“No Silver Bullet — Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering” is a classic paper on software engineering written by Turing Award winner Fred Brooks in 1986.  Read the paper (available here if accessed inside the UR network) especially pages 3 to 5 on the “essential difficulties” of software development.

“A former member of the SD10 Panel on Computing in Support of Battle Management explains why he believes the ‘star wars’ effort will not achieve its stated goals.”  Read the paper (available here if accessed inside the UR network) pages 2 to 4 the section titled “Why software is unreliable.”  Which of the “essential difficulties” was Parnas discussing?

More background of this debate, detailed rationales and an illuminating discussion of the ethical issues can be found in another article of Parnas: “SDI: A Violation of Professional Responsibility”.  The article does not seem to have a free version online, but you can read it by borrowing the book “Software Fundamentals” (included as Chapter 27) from the textbook reserve for CSC 253/453 at the Carlson Library.  The lease is two hours.

Further material will be distributed through the Blackboard web site  for students who have registered.  Contact the instructor if you have problem accessing the site.

Design patterns in Ruby
Author: Olsen, Russ.
Imprint: Upper Saddle River, NJ : Addison-Wesley, c2008.
On Reserve at: Internet

Fundamentals of software engineering
Author: Ghezzi, Carlo.
Imprint: Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall, c2003.
On Reserve at: Carlson Library Reserve Desk 2nd Floor
Call Number: QA76.758 .G47 2003

Object-oriented and classical software engineering
Author: Schach, Stephen R.
Imprint: New York : McGraw-Hill, c2011.
On Reserve at: Carlson Library Reserve Desk 2nd Floor
Call Number: QA76.758 .S318 2011

Author: Scott, Michael L.
On Reserve at: Carlson Library Reserve Desk 2nd Floor
Call Number: CRL PersCpy

Software fundamentals : collected papers by David L. Parnas
Author: Parnas, David Lorge.
Imprint: Boston : Addison-Wesley, 2001.
On Reserve at: Carlson Library Reserve Desk 2nd Floor
Call Number: QA76.754 .P365 2001

Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation (
Copyright © 2003-07, Shriram Krishnamurthi
(Also see Prof. Findler’s course EECS 321 at



schedule.numbers-2016 topics