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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

On the inevitable intertwining of specification and implementation

Contrary to recent claims that specification should be completed before implementation begins, this paper presents two arguments that the two processes must be intertwined. First, limitations of available implementation technology may force a specification change. For example, deciding to implement a stack as an array (rather than as a linked list) may impose a fixed limit on the depth of the stack. Second, implementation choices may suggest augmentations to the original specification. For example, deciding to use an existing pattern-match routine to implement the search command in an editor may lead to incorporating some of the routine's features into the specification, such as the ability to include wild cards in the search key. This paper elaborates these points and illustrates how they arise in the specification of a controller for a package router.

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