Why informal specs usually win

Paul Prescod paul at prescod.net
Tue Jan 26 17:07:09 GMT 1999

Michael.Kay at icl.com wrote:
> >
> > "Since then, almost every author of books on new programming languages
> > used [BNF] to specify the syntax rules of the language."
> >
> The reality, unfortunately, is that almost every author has invented a new
> variant of BNF to specify the relevant syntax rules.

This is not a big problem because people can pick up the new E-BNFs quite
easily. If people implemented software by directly pasting the BNF into a
parser generator then that would be a bigger deal. Perhaps in the future
we will standardize EBNF and people will generate grammars directly. The
problem, of course, is that the EBNF in the standard is not optimized for
your parser generator's algorithm (and may not even be compatible with
it!). Standardizing EBNF would require a standardization of the underlying

 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for only himself

So what if one dark midnight less than a year from now, millions of 
computers around the world suddenly grind to a halt? My computer grinds 
to a halt several times a day. ... [Forget Y2K] We're ignoring a much 
bigger bug problem that's hiding, well, right under our noses. Call it 
the Y-Does-My-Computer-Crash-Three-Times-A-Day Problem.
	- http://www.upside.com/David_Futrelle/

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