Prove the correctness of a compiler front-end

Roger L Costello <>
Fri, 3 Feb 2023 12:39:28 +0000

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Prove the correctness of a compiler front-end (Roger L Costello) (2023-02-03)
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From: Roger L Costello <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2023 12:39:28 +0000
Organization: Compilers Central
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Fascinating discussion! A summary of the discussion:

Scenario: Prove that the compiler front-end program you just wrote is

Approach: Use a theorem prover to prove the correctness of the program.

Aharon Robbins: Isn't there a chicken and egg problem? How do we know that the
theorem prover is correct and bug free?

Martin Ward: A theorem prover generates a proof of the theorem (if it
succeeds). Checking the correctness of a proof is a much simpler task than
finding the proof in the first place and can be carried out independently by
different teams using different methods.

Alan Perlis: I don't see any reason to believe that a thousand line proof is
any more likely to be bug-free than a thousand line program.

Martin Ward: Mathematicians publish proofs all the time and only a tiny
percentage of published proofs turn out to have errors. Programmers release
programs all the time and a vanishingly small percentage of these turn out to
be free from all bugs. Alan Perlis may not have been able to think of a reason
why this should be the case, but it is, nevertheless, the case.

John Levine: Computer programs tend to be a lot longer than mathematical
proofs. I realize there are some 500 page proofs, but there are a whole lot of
500 page programs. It is my impression that in proofs, as in programs, the
longer and more complicated they are, the more likely they are to have bugs.

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