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Generic Arithmetic Operations

The task of designing generic arithmetic operations is analogous to that of designing the generic complex-number operations. We would like, for instance, to have a generic addition procedure add that acts like ordinary primitive addition + on ordinary numbers, like add-rat on rational numbers, and like add-complex on complex numbers. We can implement add, and the other generic arithmetic operations, by following the same strategy we used in section  to implement the generic selectors for complex numbers. We will attach a type tag to each kind of number and cause the generic procedure to dispatch to an appropriate package according to the data type of its arguments.

The generic arithmetic procedures are defined as follows:

(define (add x y) (apply-generic 'add x y))
(define (sub x y) (apply-generic 'sub x y))
(define (mul x y) (apply-generic 'mul x y))
(define (div x y) (apply-generic 'div x y))


We begin by installing a package for handling ordinary numbers, that is, the primitive numbers of our language. We will tag these with the symbol scheme-number. The arithmetic operations in this package are the primitive arithmetic procedures (so there is no need to define extra procedures to handle the untagged numbers). Since these operations each take two arguments, they are installed in the table keyed by the list (scheme-number scheme-number):

(define (install-scheme-number-package)
(define (tag x)
(attach-tag 'scheme-number x))
(lambda (x y) (tag (+ x y))))
(put 'sub '(scheme-number scheme-number)
(lambda (x y) (tag (- x y))))
(put 'mul '(scheme-number scheme-number)
(lambda (x y) (tag (* x y))))
(put 'div '(scheme-number scheme-number)
(lambda (x y) (tag (/ x y))))
(put 'make 'scheme-number
(lambda (x) (tag x)))
'done)


Users of the Scheme-number package will create (tagged) ordinary numbers by means of the procedure:

(define (make-scheme-number n)
((get 'make 'scheme-number) n))


Now that the framework of the generic arithmetic system is in place, we can readily include new kinds of numbers. Here is a package that performs rational arithmetic. Notice that, as a benefit of additivity, we can use without modification the rational-number code from section  as the internal procedures in the package:

(define (install-rational-package)
;; internal procedures
(define (numer x) (car x))
(define (denom x) (cdr x))
(define (make-rat n d)
(let ((g (gcd n d)))
(cons (/ n g) (/ d g))))
(make-rat (+ (* (numer x) (denom y))
(* (numer y) (denom x)))
(* (denom x) (denom y))))
(define (sub-rat x y)
(make-rat (- (* (numer x) (denom y))
(* (numer y) (denom x)))
(* (denom x) (denom y))))
(define (mul-rat x y)
(make-rat (* (numer x) (numer y))
(* (denom x) (denom y))))
(define (div-rat x y)
(make-rat (* (numer x) (denom y))
(* (denom x) (numer y))))

;; interface to rest of the system
(define (tag x) (attach-tag 'rational x))
(lambda (x y) (tag (add-rat x y))))
(put 'sub '(rational rational)
(lambda (x y) (tag (sub-rat x y))))
(put 'mul '(rational rational)
(lambda (x y) (tag (mul-rat x y))))
(put 'div '(rational rational)
(lambda (x y) (tag (div-rat x y))))

(put 'make 'rational
(lambda (n d) (tag (make-rat n d))))
'done)

(define (make-rational n d)
((get 'make 'rational) n d))


We can install a similar package to handle complex numbers, using the tag complex. In creating the package, we extract from the table the operations make-from-real-imag and make-from-mag-ang that were defined by the rectangular and polar packages. Additivity permits us to use, as the internal operations, the same add-complex, sub-complex, mul-complex, and div-complex procedures from section .

(define (install-complex-package)
;; imported procedures from rectangular and polar packages
(define (make-from-real-imag x y)
((get 'make-from-real-imag 'rectangular) x y))
(define (make-from-mag-ang r a)
((get 'make-from-mag-ang 'polar) r a))

;; internal procedures
(make-from-real-imag (+ (real-part z1) (real-part z2))
(+ (imag-part z1) (imag-part z2))))
(define (sub-complex z1 z2)
(make-from-real-imag (- (real-part z1) (real-part z2))
(- (imag-part z1) (imag-part z2))))
(define (mul-complex z1 z2)
(make-from-mag-ang (* (magnitude z1) (magnitude z2))
(+ (angle z1) (angle z2))))
(define (div-complex z1 z2)
(make-from-mag-ang (/ (magnitude z1) (magnitude z2))
(- (angle z1) (angle z2))))

;; interface to rest of the system
(define (tag z) (attach-tag 'complex z))
(lambda (z1 z2) (tag (add-complex z1 z2))))
(put 'sub '(complex complex)
(lambda (z1 z2) (tag (sub-complex z1 z2))))
(put 'mul '(complex complex)
(lambda (z1 z2) (tag (mul-complex z1 z2))))
(put 'div '(complex complex)
(lambda (z1 z2) (tag (div-complex z1 z2))))
(put 'make-from-real-imag 'complex
(lambda (x y) (tag (make-from-real-imag x y))))
(put 'make-from-mag-ang 'complex
(lambda (r a) (tag (make-from-mag-ang r a))))
'done)


Programs outside the complex-number package can construct complex numbers either from real and imaginary parts or from magnitudes and angles. Notice how the underlying procedures, originally defined in the rectangular and polar packages, are exported to the complex package, and exported from there to the outside world.

(define (make-complex-from-real-imag x y)
((get 'make-from-real-imag 'complex) x y))

(define (make-complex-from-mag-ang r a)
((get 'make-from-mag-ang 'complex) r a))


What we have here is a two-level tag system. A typical complex number, such as 3+4i in rectangular form, would be represented as shown in figure . The outer tag (complex) is used to direct the number to the complex package. Once within the complex package, the next tag ( rectangular) is used to direct the number to the rectangular package. In a large and complicated system there might be many levels, each interfaced with the next by means of generic operations. As a data object is passed downward,'' the outer tag that is used to direct it to the appropriate package is stripped off (by applying contents) and the next level of tag (if any) becomes visible to be used for further dispatching.

In the above packages, we used add-rat, add-complex, and the other arithmetic procedures exactly as originally written. Once these definitions are internal to different installation procedures, however, they no longer need names that are distinct from each other: we could simply name them add, sub, mul, and div in both packages.

Exercise. Louis Reasoner tries to evaluate the expression (magnitude z) where z is the object shown in figure . To his surprise, instead of the answer 5 he gets an error message from apply-generic, saying there is no method for the operation magnitude on the types (complex). He shows this interaction to Alyssa P. Hacker, who says The problem is that the complex-number selectors were never defined for complex numbers, just for polar and rectangular numbers. All you have to do to make this work is add the following to the complex package:''

(put 'real-part '(complex) real-part)
(put 'imag-part '(complex) imag-part)
(put 'magnitude '(complex) magnitude)
(put 'angle '(complex) angle)

Describe in detail why this works. As an example, trace through all the procedures called in evaluating the expression (magnitude z) where z is the object shown in figure . In particular, how many times is apply-generic invoked? What procedure is dispatched to in each case?

Exercise. The internal procedures in the scheme-number package are essentially nothing more than calls to the primitive procedures +, -, etc. It was not possible to use the primitives of the language directly because our type-tag system requires that each data object have a type attached to it. In fact, however, all Lisp implementations do have a type system, which they use internally. Primitive predicates such as symbol? and number? determine whether data objects have particular types. Modify the definitions of type-tag, contents, and attach-tag from section  so that our generic system takes advantage of Scheme's internal type system. That is to say, the system should work as before except that ordinary numbers should be represented simply as Scheme numbers rather than as pairs whose car is the symbol scheme-number.

Exercise. Define a generic equality predicate equ? that tests the equality of two numbers, and install it in the generic arithmetic package. This operation should work for ordinary numbers, rational numbers, and complex numbers.

Exercise. Define a generic predicate =zero? that tests if its argument is zero, and install it in the generic arithmetic package. This operation should work for ordinary numbers, rational numbers, and complex numbers.

Next: Combining Data of Different Up: Systems with Generic Operations Previous: Systems with Generic Operations
Ryan Bender
2000-04-17