EBNF open letter

72634.2402@CompuServe.com (John Rogers)
Sun, 11 Sep 1994 23:41:52 GMT

          From comp.compilers

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Newsgroups: comp.compilers
From: 72634.2402@CompuServe.com (John Rogers)
Keywords: parse, question, comment
Organization: Compilers Central
Date: Sun, 11 Sep 1994 23:41:52 GMT

Hi all!

Many years ago, Niklaus Wirth proposed a notation for defining the syntax
of programming languages. This metalanguage is called "extended
Backus-Naur Form," or EBNF. Although its earliest publication seems to
have been in a very short article in the Communications of the ACM in
1977, it is still alive and well. Recent ANSI/IEEE and ISO/IEC standards
have made use of it.

So why am I writing this letter? Partly because EBNF is a good thing in
and of itself: it is clear, unambiguous, readable, easy to learn, machine
processable, and is not dependent on multiple fonts. I'm also writing
this because I'd like to see a standard combining the various dialects of
EBNF that have cropped-up over the years. In fact, I'm probably willing
to write the first draft of the standard. My third reason for writing
this letter is that I hope to make some money by coming-up with my own
EBNF-based products.

Are you aware of any ongoing work on standardizing EBNF? Perhaps an ANSI,
IEEE, IEC, or ISO committee? If nothing is ongoing, then I might be
interested in creating an informal committee for this. Would you be
interested in being involved in the committee? Or would you just like me
to keep you posted?

The first thing I would like to add to EBNF is a way of indicating
comments. Before I invent something, is there any existing technique for

Anyone who is interested, or aware of any other EBNF-based software,
is invited to send me email or regular mail.

Thanks in advance!
--JR (John Rogers)

P.S. Please feel free to pass this letter around, publish it, post it
to Usenet, etc. Here's how to contact me:

      JR (John Rogers)
      11604 104th Ave. NE
      Kirkland WA 98034-6606
      (206) 821-2816
      CompuServe: 72634,2402
[Seems to me that before one tries to standardize EBNF, you might start with
a standardized BNF. -John]

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