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Assertions

It is a good idea to make your programs self-checking, in particular, if you use an assumption (e.g., that a certain field of a data structure is never zero) that may become wrong during maintenance. Gforth supports assertions for this purpose. They are used like this:

assert( flag )

The code between assert( and ) should compute a flag, that should be true if everything is alright and false otherwise. It should not change anything else on the stack. The overall stack effect of the assertion is ( -- ). E.g.

assert( 1 1 + 2 = ) \ what we learn in school
assert( dup 0<> ) \ assert that the top of stack is not zero
assert( false ) \ this code should not be reached

The need for assertions is different at different times. During debugging, we want more checking, in production we sometimes care more for speed. Therefore, assertions can be turned off, i.e., the assertion becomes a comment. Depending on the importance of an assertion and the time it takes to check it, you may want to turn off some assertions and keep others turned on. Gforth provides several levels of assertions for this purpose:

assert0(       --         gforth       ``assert-zero''

important assertions that should always be turned on

assert1(       --         gforth       ``assert-one''

normal assertions; turned on by default

assert2(       --         gforth       ``assert-two''

debugging assertions

assert3(       --         gforth       ``assert-three''

slow assertions that you may not want to turn on in normal debugging; you would turn them on mainly for thorough checking

assert(       --         gforth       ``assert(''

equivalent to assert1(

)       --         gforth       ``close-paren''

end an assertion

Assert( is the same as assert1(. The variable assert-level specifies the highest assertions that are turned on. I.e., at the default assert-level of one, assert0( and assert1( assertions perform checking, while assert2( and assert3( assertions are treated as comments.

Note that the assert-level is evaluated at compile-time, not at run-time. I.e., you cannot turn assertions on or off at run-time, you have to set the assert-level appropriately before compiling a piece of code. You can compile several pieces of code at several assert-levels (e.g., a trusted library at level 1 and newly written code at level 3).

assert-level       -- a-addr         gforth       ``assert-level''

all assertions above this level are turned off

If an assertion fails, a message compatible with Emacs' compilation mode is produced and the execution is aborted (currently with ABORT". If there is interest, we will introduce a special throw code. But if you intend to catch a specific condition, using throw is probably more appropriate than an assertion).


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