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3329RE: [gthomas] Moments of Truth

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  • Jeffrey Glen Jackson
    Oct 1, 2000
      Regarding synchronicity, I work on compilers, which are computer
      programs that translate programming languages, such as FORTRAN or
      C or C++ into machine language. These programs are themselves
      written in a programming language and so are used to compile themselves.
      (Sorry for the long technical explanation -- I'm getting to the point
      soon). Now, the C compiler is written in C. A new version is compiled
      with an old version of the compiler. Then we recompile it with the
      new version we just compiled. Then, we do it again, and make sure
      this third generation of compilations is identical to the second
      generation. The new compiler compiled with the old compiler should
      generate the same results as the new compiler compiled with
      itself. However, if the new compiler has a bug, it might generate
      incorrect code for some portion of itself, causing the new compiler
      compiled with itself to behave differently than the new compiler compiled
      with the old compiler. More often than is reasonable, the module it
      generates incorrect code for is the module that has the bug that
      caused the incorrect code to be generated in the first place. This
      happens so often its downright spooky.

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