Spec#, a new dawn for programming languages


Spec# pronounced ‘Spec Sharp’ is new attempt at a more cost effective way to develop and maintain high-quality software. This language is being developed by Microsoft Research and has left me completely dumbstruck. My favourite programming language is C# of which I’m self taught, but I was formally trained in C/C++.

Spec# is an extension to C# that introduces the notion of contract based programming. If you have tried Windows Communication Foundation, you will be familiar with the notion of contracts. Spec# takes things to a whole new level, and is very very explicit – this is a complete understatement by the way.

When you are defining your encapsulated fields and methods you have to go into a great more detail about how those fields and methods will operate, all at compile time. In C++, C# or Visual Basic, a developer usually writes a chunk of code and then compiles that code into a .dll or executable. It is only at this stage when problems are identified, and resolutions are effected. Spec# does not allow this because as you write your code it checks everything. One of the key features is that you have to specify values as non-null. This is a big deal.

What non-null stipulations allow for, is very performant code (‘performant’ is a word used by Technical Fellows so it is now a word – as far as I am concerned). This is because code is not being checked for being null which is something that is always done for Common Language Runtime languages. The way the Spec# team achieve this is through their ‘brain-box’ knowledge of Microsoft Intermediate Language.

I will certainly be keeping my eyes on this one.

One thought on “Spec#, a new dawn for programming languages

  1. Ira, did you attend Sharon junior school in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1987? If yes we were in the same class. Am based in Johannesburg and specialise in finance. Regards, David Makovah

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