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Representing Tables

When we studied various ways of representing sets in chapter 2, we mentioned in section [*] the task of maintaining a table of records indexed by identifying keys. In the implementation of data-directed programming in section [*], we made extensive use of two-dimensional tables, in which information is stored and retrieved using two keys. Here we see how to build tables as mutable list structures.

We first consider a one-dimensional table, in which each value is stored under a single key. We implement the table as a list of records, each of which is implemented as a pair consisting of a key and the associated value. The records are glued together to form a list by pairs whose cars point to successive records. These gluing pairs are called the backbone of the table. In order to have a place that we can change when we add a new record to the table, we build the table as a headed list. A headed list has a special backbone pair at the beginning, which holds a dummy ``record''--in this case the arbitrarily chosen symbol *table*. Figure [*] shows the box-and-pointer diagram for the table

a:  1
b:  2
c:  3


  \begin{figure}\par\figcaption {A table represented as a headed list.}\end{figure}

To extract information from a table we use the lookup procedure, which takes a key as argument and returns the associated value (or false if there is no value stored under that key). Lookup is defined in terms of the assoc operation, which expects a key and a list of records as arguments. Note that assoc never sees the dummy record. Assoc returns the record that has the given key as its car.[*] Lookup then checks to see that the resulting record returned by assoc is not false, and returns the value (the cdr) of the record.

(define (lookup key table)
  (let ((record (assoc key (cdr table))))
    (if record
        (cdr record)
        false)))

(define (assoc key records)
  (cond ((null? records) false)
        ((equal? key (caar records)) (car records))
        (else (assoc key (cdr records)))))

To insert a value in a table under a specified key, we first use assoc to see if there is already a record in the table with this key. If not, we form a new record by consing the key with the value, and insert this at the head of the table's list of records, after the dummy record. If there already is a record with this key, we set the cdr of this record to the designated new value. The header of the table provides us with a fixed location to modify in order to insert the new record.[*]

(define (insert! key value table)
  (let ((record (assoc key (cdr table))))
    (if record
        (set-cdr! record value)
        (set-cdr! table
                  (cons (cons key value) (cdr table)))))
  'ok)

To construct a new table, we simply create a list containing the symbol *table*:

(define (make-table)
  (list '*table*))

Two-dimensional tables

In a two-dimensional table, each value is indexed by two keys. We can construct such a table as a one-dimensional table in which each key identifies a subtable. Figure [*] shows the box-and-pointer diagram for the table

math:
    +:  43
    -:  45
    *:  42
letters:
    a:  97
    b:  98
which has two subtables. (The subtables don't need a special header symbol, since the key that identifies the subtable serves this purpose.)


  \begin{figure}\par\figcaption {A two-dimensional table.}\end{figure}

When we look up an item, we use the first key to identify the correct subtable. Then we use the second key to identify the record within the subtable.

(define (lookup key-1 key-2 table)
  (let ((subtable (assoc key-1 (cdr table))))
    (if subtable
        (let ((record (assoc key-2 (cdr subtable))))
          (if record
              (cdr record)
              false))
        false)))

To insert a new item under a pair of keys, we use assoc to see if there is a subtable stored under the first key. If not, we build a new subtable containing the single record (key-2, value) and insert it into the table under the first key. If a subtable already exists for the first key, we insert the new record into this subtable, using the insertion method for one-dimensional tables described above:

(define (insert! key-1 key-2 value table)
  (let ((subtable (assoc key-1 (cdr table))))
    (if subtable
        (let ((record (assoc key-2 (cdr subtable))))
          (if record
              (set-cdr! record value)
              (set-cdr! subtable
                        (cons (cons key-2 value)
                              (cdr subtable)))))
        (set-cdr! table
                  (cons (list key-1
                              (cons key-2 value))
                        (cdr table)))))
  'ok)

Creating local tables

The lookup and insert! operations defined above take the table as an argument. This enables us to use programs that access more than one table. Another way to deal with multiple tables is to have separate lookup and insert! procedures for each table. We can do this by representing a table procedurally, as an object that maintains an internal table as part of its local state. When sent an appropriate message, this ``table object'' supplies the procedure with which to operate on the internal table. Here is a generator for two-dimensional tables represented in this fashion:

(define (make-table)
  (let ((local-table (list '*table*)))
    (define (lookup key-1 key-2)
      (let ((subtable (assoc key-1 (cdr local-table))))
        (if subtable
            (let ((record (assoc key-2 (cdr subtable))))
              (if record
                  (cdr record)
                  false))
            false)))
    (define (insert! key-1 key-2 value)
      (let ((subtable (assoc key-1 (cdr local-table))))
        (if subtable
            (let ((record (assoc key-2 (cdr subtable))))
              (if record
                  (set-cdr! record value)
                  (set-cdr! subtable
                            (cons (cons key-2 value)
                                  (cdr subtable)))))
            (set-cdr! local-table
                      (cons (list key-1
                                  (cons key-2 value))
                            (cdr local-table)))))
      'ok)    
    (define (dispatch m)
      (cond ((eq? m 'lookup-proc) lookup)
            ((eq? m 'insert-proc!) insert!)
            (else (error "Unknown operation - TABLE" m))))
    dispatch))

Using make-table, we could implement the get and put operations used in section [*] for data-directed programming, as follows:

(define operation-table (make-table))
(define get (operation-table 'lookup-proc))
(define put (operation-table 'insert-proc!))
Get takes as arguments two keys, and put takes as arguments two keys and a value. Both operations access the same local table, which is encapsulated within the object created by the call to make-table.

Exercise. In the table implementations above, the keys are tested for equality using equal? (called by assoc). This is not always the appropriate test. For instance, we might have a table with numeric keys in which we don't need an exact match to the number we're looking up, but only a number within some tolerance of it. Design a table constructor make-table that takes as an argument a same-key? procedure that will be used to test ``equality'' of keys. Make-table should return a dispatch procedure that can be used to access appropriate lookup and insert! procedures for a local table.  

Exercise. Generalizing one- and two-dimensional tables, show how to implement a table in which values are stored under an arbitrary number of keys and different values may be stored under different numbers of keys. The lookup and insert! procedures should take as input a list of keys used to access the table.

Exercise. To search a table as implemented above, one needs to scan through the list of records. This is basically the unordered list representation of section [*]. For large tables, it may be more efficient to structure the table in a different manner. Describe a table implementation where the (key, value) records are organized using a binary tree, assuming that keys can be ordered in some way (e.g., numerically or alphabetically). (Compare exercise [*] of chapter 2.)

Exercise. Memoization (also called tabulation) is a technique that enables a procedure to record, in a local table, values that have previously been computed. This technique can make a vast difference in the performance of a program. A memoized procedure maintains a table in which values of previous calls are stored using as keys the arguments that produced the values. When the memoized procedure is asked to compute a value, it first checks the table to see if the value is already there and, if so, just returns that value. Otherwise, it computes the new value in the ordinary way and stores this in the table. As an example of memoization, recall from section [*] the exponential process for computing Fibonacci numbers:

(define (fib n)
  (cond ((= n 0) 0)
        ((= n 1) 1)
        (else (+ (fib (- n 1))
                 (fib (- n 2))))))
The memoized version of the same procedure is

(define memo-fib
  (memoize (lambda (n)
             (cond ((= n 0) 0)
                   ((= n 1) 1)
                   (else (+ (memo-fib (- n 1))
                            (memo-fib (- n 2))))))))
where the memoizer is defined as
(define (memoize f)
  (let ((table (make-table)))
    (lambda (x)
      (let ((previously-computed-result (lookup x table)))
        (or previously-computed-result
            (let ((result (f x)))
              (insert! x result table)
              result))))))
Draw an environment diagram to analyze the computation of (memo-fib 3). Explain why memo-fib computes the nth Fibonacci number in a number of steps proportional to n. Would the scheme still work if we had simply defined memo-fib to be (memoize fib)?  


next up previous contents
Next: A Simulator for Digital Up: Modeling with Mutable Data Previous: Representing Queues
Ryan Bender
2000-04-17