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Semantics Engineering with PLT Redex 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262062756
ISBN-10: 0262062755
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Matthias Felleisen and his colleagues in The PLT group are well known for their books on program design, their work on teaching programming, and for the research that has led to DrScheme, one of the most powerful and flexible programming environments ever created. In this book they turn their attention to the subject of programming language semantics, with happy results. Courses on semantics can easily become as dry as dust; in contrast, this book is nothing short of revolutionary. The first part is a very clear explanation of the basic concepts in programming language semantics, starting with abstract models and moving to progressively more concrete ones. However, the book really comes alive in the second part, where they use the PLT Redex language that they have developed to interactively explore language semantics in the same way that DrScheme allows the interactive exploration of programs. I believe that this approach will become the standard way of doing semantics research in the future, and there is no better way to take advantage of it than to read this book.

(Michael Vanier, Department of Computer Science, Caltech)

About the Author

Matthias Felleisen, Robert Bruce Findler, and Matthew Flatt are the authors (with Shiram Krishnamurthi) of How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Programming and Computing, also published by the MIT Press. Felleisen is Trustee Professor of Computer Science at Northeastern University and the coauthor (with Daniel Friedman) of The Little Schemer and three other "Little" books published by the MIT Press. Findler is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Northwestern University. Flatt is Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1st edition (August 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262062755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262062756
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,255,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book has three parts: The first part is an introduction to small-step semantics, evaluation contexts, abstract machines, and how these are used to model common programming language constructs. The second part is about the tool, PLT Redex, which the authors have built. The third part is a set of case studies from several different authors (not the authors of the remainder of the book).

The first part of the book is really great. It is a brilliant introduction to the field and gives a good overview over the historic development of the field, starting with Landin's ISWIM language and SECD machine. My only (minor) critique is that I would have wished for a broader description of related work - for example, Olivier Danvy's work is surprisingly not mentioned at all, although he has done tons of work in that domain.

The second part - the introduction to PLT redex - is easy to follow, but is a bit bloated for my taste. PLT redex is a nice tool, but it could also be described in half the space. It was also a bit disappointing that all the stuff on abstract machines from the first part is hardly mentioned anymore in this part.

The third part - the case studies - is the weakest part of the book. It is not clear to which end all these case studies are presented. They all give a lot of details about various research projects, but they are not sorted in a meaningful way and the presentations of the case studies are also quite different in style (which is probably not surprising since each one was written by a different author). The main authors could have made a better attempt to sort the material and unify the presentation.

My suggestion is to buy the book for the first part.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very clear and interesting book on semantics. The PLT Redex adds a surprising amount to the study of semantics --- encouraging experimentation and application. I have used the book in the graduate class I teach and have had success.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book and tool. A detailed and accessible overview of operational semantics,
all brought to life via the PLT Redex implementation.
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By Bala on February 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Got an awesome book in a excellent condition. Probably the difficulty of the subject made it more desirable. This book will be a part of all time favorite
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Doesn't do a good job of explaining usage of some of the fundamental features of redex.... starts off with a confusing chapter where they introduce a lot of terminology and symbols that are never brought up again, and then dives into Redex features. Many important operations are used with little to no explanation, leaving the reader to figure out for their own what is going on. It is surprisingly low quality when compared to the How to Design Programs book.
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