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This is another one of the issues I had marked as being in need of
major revisions.  Kent and I think that this writeup is ready to go.
If anybody else has something to add to the discussion section, let me
know ASAP.

Forum:	        Compiler
References:	CLtL p. 112
Category:	CHANGE
Edit History:   V1, 27 Sep 1988, Sandra Loosemore (initial version)
                V2, 04 Oct 1988, Sandra Loosemore (add another example)
		V3, 31 Oct 1988, Sandra Loosemore (only proposal ELIMINATE)
	        V4, 08 Jan 1989, Kent M. Pitman (new alternative)
		V5, 09 Jan 1989, Sandra Loosemore (discussion)
		V6, 08 Mar 1989, Sandra Loosemore (general updating)

Problem Description:

 The description of the COMPILER-LET special form in CLtL is confusing
 to many people.  There are no examples provided to make it clear how it
 is supposed to be used. The only description which is offered is overly
 concrete, which have led to confusion about the intent of COMPILER-LET,
 and about its implementability.
 The intent of COMPILER-LET was to permit information to be communicated
 between macros by use of dynamic variables at macroexpansion time.
 It was not necessary to the intended uses of COMPILER-LET that such
 variables ever be bound at execution time.  
 Unfortunately, probably because some implementations did not primitively
 support COMPILER-LET at the time CLtL was written, an exception was 
 permitted to make COMPILER-LET `more or less work' in interpreters: 
 the COMPILER-LET variables were permitted to be bound at execution time.
 The problem was further compounded by the fact that CLtL presented this
 exception as part of COMPILER-LET's contract rather than as an 
 implementation note, and by the fact that no examples of actually using
 COMPILER-LET correctly are provided.
 Subtle bugs can be introduced because of the different handling of the
 variable bindings in the interpreter and the compiler.  In compiled
 code, the bindings are only lexically visible during the expansion of
 macros at compile time, while in interpreted code the bindings have
 dynamic scope and may also be seen during ordinary evaluation if
 evaluation and macroexpansion happen concurrently.
 Further compatibility problems can result from the value forms being
 evaluated in a null lexical environment in the compiler and the ordinary
 lexical environment in the interpreter.
Background and Analysis:

 It should be clear up front that COMPILER-LET is not computationally
 essential. Most (if not all) uses of it can be rewritten using MACROLET

 A typical use of COMPILER-LET might be:

  (defvar *local-type-declarations* '())
  (defmacro local-type-declare (declarations &body forms)
    `(compiler-let ((*local-type-declarations* 
		      (append ',declarations *local-type-declarations*)))
  (defmacro typed-var (var)
    (let ((type (assoc var *local-type-declarations*)))
      (if type `(the ,(cadr type) ,var) var)))
  (defun f (x y)
    (local-type-declare ((x fixnum) (y float))
      (+ (typed-var x) (typed-var y))))

 The same thing could be accomplished using MACROLET:
  (defmacro local-type-declare (declarations &body forms)
    (local-type-declare-aux declarations forms))
  (defmacro typed-var (var) var)

  (eval-when (eval compile load)
    (defun local-type-declare-aux (declarations forms)
      `(macrolet ((typed-var (var)
		    (let ((type  (assoc var ',declarations)))
		      (if type `(the ,(cadr type) ,var) var)))
		  (local-type-declare (new-declarations &body new-forms)
		      (append new-declarations ',declarations)

 A further alternative would be to use SYMBOL-MACROLET (this particular
 implementation assumes that issue DEFINING-MACROS-NON-TOP-LEVEL passes):

  (let ((temp  (gensym)))
    (defmacro local-type-declare (declarations &body forms &environment env)
      `(symbol-macrolet ((,temp  ',(append declarations
					  (symbol-macro-value temp env))))
    (defmacro typed-var (var &environment env)
      (let ((type  (assoc var (symbol-macro-value temp env))))
	(if type `(the ,(cadr type) ,var) var)))
  (defun symbol-macro-value (symbol env &optional default)
    (multiple-value-bind (expansion macro-p) (eval (macroexpand symbol env))
      (if macro-p expansion default)))

 Opinion is divided as to which is more understandable.  Some
 people find the COMPILER-LET idiom more understandable, while others
 find it just as natural to use MACROLET or SYMBOL-MACROLET.

 The issues are these:

  - Is it possible to implement COMPILER-LET in a usefully consistent
    way in all implementations?

  - Are the benefits of providing a useful and compatible implementation
    of COMPILER-LET worth any associated cost?

 Two proposals are presented below:

  - Option REPAIR argues that COMPILER-LET provides interesting
    functionality that can be implemented in a manner that is usefully
    consistent across implementations, and that the associated cost
    is low enough for it to be worthwhile to do so.

  - Option ELIMINATE argues that COMPILER-LET complicates the language
    and that providing this construct is not worth the associated 
    implementation cost.


  Strike the existing definition of COMPILER-LET. Redefine it as follows:
  COMPILER-LET						  [Special form]
    COMPILER-LET is similar to LET, but it always makes special 
    bindings and makes those bindings visible only during 
    macroexpansion of forms in the body, not during the runtime
    execution of those forms. 

    The intent is that some macros might macroexpand into calls to
    COMPILER-LET in which the body would the contain references to
    macros which access the variables in the COMPILER-LET.
    The initial value forms of the bindings, if any, are always 
    evaluated in a null lexical context, regardless of whether the
    COMPILER-LET expression is being interpreted or compiled.
    The initial value forms of the bindings, if any, are evaluated in
    a dynamic context where the bindings of any lexically enclosing
    COMPILER-LET are visible, and where dynamic execution-time 
    environment may or may not be visible.
    Implementation Note: Permitting the execution-time dynamic
    environment to be visible when initializing COMPILER-LET variables
    is a concession to some interpreters which may have to do this in
    order to keep the cost down. Where feasible, implementors should
    try not to make the runtime environment visible.


    This gives a consistent description of COMPILER-LET which separates
    issues of intent from those of implementation in a way that makes it
    possible for portable code to make serious use of it, and which does
    not force gratuitous incompatibilities between interpreters and

    This description of COMPILER-LET can be implemented without undue
    cost by all implementations. See "Cost to Implementors" for details.

  Cost to Implementors:

    Modest, but nontrivial in some implementations.

    In compiled code, and in interpreters doing a one-time semantic
    prepass, it should be fairly easy for COMPILER-LET to cause the 
    variables to get bound (using PROGV) during semantic analysis.

    In interpreters which do not do a semantic-prepass, it is necessary
    to fully macroexpand the body. Assuming the presence of a
    SYSTEM::MACROEXPAND-ALL primitive, the definition of COMPILER-LET
    could look like:
        (SETQ BINDINGS ;; Assure no non-atom bindings
    This reduces the problem of writing a program capable of doing a
    full macroexpansion. Many systems already have such a facility.
    Pitman wrote such a facility in Cloe Runtime in order support 
    SYMBOL-MACROLET (before it was christened a special form); it was
    about 750 lines of relatively straightforward, well-commented code.

  Cost to Users:

    Code currently depending on this feature is either non-existent or
    already not portable (due to wide variation in implementation 
    strategy for COMPILER-LET).

    Most users will probably be happy for any interpretation which offers
    them a future shot at portability.

    Some users have indicated they dislike interpreters which do a semantic
    prepass, because they like to be able to dynamically redefine macros
    while debugging.


  Remove COMPILER-LET from the language.

    Some people think that having one less special form would simplify the
    language.  The revised COMPILER-LET semantics, which require
    COMPILER-LET to make special bindings which are only lexically visible
    within its body, are not shared by any other feature in the language,
    and require a fairly complex implementation technique.  There are
    other constructs which are strictly lexical that can be readily used
    to solve the same kinds of problems that COMPILER-LET is intended to
    be used for.

  Cost to Implementors:
    Minimal.  Implementations could continue to support COMPILER-LET as
    an extension.
  Cost to Users:
    People who use COMPILER-LET would have to rewrite their programs to use
    some other construct.  As discussed above, most uses of COMPILER-LET
    for communication between macros can be handled using MACROLET or
    SYMBOL-MACROLET, though some perspicuity may be lost in the process.

Current Practice:
 Some implementations have implemented the description in CLtL. 
 Users of those implementations (quite reasonably) can't figure how to 
 use COMPILER-LET and so don't use it much.

 Some implementations (the ones from which COMPILER-LET originally came)
 continue to use their pre-CLtL semantics. These semantics are useful, though
 incompatible with CLtL (which they largely consider to simply be in error).
 Users of those implementations probably use COMPILER-LET somewhat more 
 often since it has an intelligible behavior, but their code is not portable
 since it relies on behaviors which are either contrary to or not guaranteed
 by CLtL.


 Either way, a potential area of incompatibility between compiled and
 interpreted code would be eliminated.

 Either way, a potential area of portability trouble would be very
 drastically reduced (in the case of the REPAIR option) or eliminated
 (in the case of the ELIMINATE option).


 Pitman strongly favors COMPILER-LET-CONFUSION:REPAIR.  He argues 
 against the idea of using MACROLET instead of COMPILER-LET, saying:

  This is a little misleading because it's like saying you can
  do without LET given that you have FLET. You can, but you lose some things
  in the process:
  Just as rewriting a LET using FLET might slow your computation, so too
  a rewrite of COMPILER-LET using MACROLET might slow things down. However,
  compilation speed is generally not weighted as heavily as execution speed
  by many people, so the loss of speed here may not be as important.
  Just as rewriting a LET using FLET might obscure the simplicity of your
  intent, so too rewriting COMPILER-LET using MACROLET might obscure your
  intent. You'd probably get used to recognizing idioms if you used it often
  enough. Certainly this would be true if you didn't have LET. However,
  COMPILER-LET is used less often, so not having it would mean that the
  code you wrote instead would be much harder to read because people
  wouldn't have the necessary familiarity with the idioms involved and so
  wouldn't always understand them.
 Sandra Loosemore responds:

  The argument that using MACROLET is more inefficient than COMPILER-LET
  is questionable.  Both of the suggested implementation techniques for
  COMPILER-LET involve considerable overhead.

  If COMPILER-LET were not part of the language, people wouldn't think in
  terms of rewriting COMPILER-LETs as MACROLETs; instead, they'd think of
  how to use MACROLET in the first place to solve their problems.  This
  is what people who now use implementations with broken COMPILER-LETs
  already do.  Since MACROLET is now used much more frequently than
  COMPILER-LET, that argues that people are much more familiar with 
  MACROLET idioms than COMPILER-LET idioms.

  Also, note that the intent of the revised COMPILER-LET definition is
  to make the binding only lexically visible within the body.  Using
  special binding for this purpose is troublesome.  Both the MACROLET
  and SYMBOL-MACROLET solutions are completely lexical and avoid all
  the problems associated with special binding.