Announcing Potential: x86-64 assembler as a Haskell EDSL

Over the years there have been many projects which seek to use advanced types to provide better static-guarantees in low level languages. There are many examples of this in the literature; here are just a few:

  • Cyclone, perhaps the most-cited example of using types to protect memory in low-level settings.
  • Habit, a proposed Haskell dialect which uses a viable form of dependent types to model low-level data structures and their memory management which I recently learned about on reddit, coincidentally in a comment on an earlier post of mine.
  • Some work due to Oleg Kiselyov and Chung-chieh Shan showing that Haskell is a viable setting for embedding a low-level language.

(If you know of others, put them in the comments!)

In December of 2009 I became interested in typed assembly languages and began working on my own, quickly deciding to embed the language into Haskell. At present there are many facets of the language which work well, but there is still a good deal of work to be done.

When I started this, I was unaware of much of the work that had already been done in this direction (I especially wish I had been aware of the Kiselyov-Shan proof of concept). In the course of the project, I’ve learned a bunch of great tricks, and also have learned of a good deal of excellent work done by others that I hadn’t seen promoted elsewhere. Over the next few posts, my goals are threefold:

  • To describe my own project: where it is, what the challenges have been, where I hope for it to go. And to release some source (on github), such as it is.
  • To describe some of the general lessons I’ve learned working on an EDSL in Haskell, to evangelize this approach to problem solving, and to describe some caveats to conventional Haskell wisdom in this setting.
  • To promote some of the work others have done in this area, in the aim of showing just how far along this idea is.