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Communications of the ACM


Meaning and Context in Computer Programs

three people looking at one display screen

Credit:, Yuri Arcurs

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When you look at a function program's source code, how do you know what it means—that is, what object or process is this function representing? Is the meaning found in the return values of the function, or is it located inside the function body? What about the function name?

Answering these questions is important to understanding how to share domain knowledge among programmers using the source code as the medium. Whether debugging or adding new features to a program, programmers must read the code to understand what the program is doing. From this reading, the programmers must also know how the problem domain is represented in the code, so they can be certain that their changes to the source code won't make the program work in unexpected ways.


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