A reference is an alias to another variable, record field, or, for some types, a portion of a variable or record field. It provides a mechanism to allow two or more variables to refer to the same value. References are created using the ref operator.
The most straight forward type of references are ``whole value'' references. In the case of whole value references, a reference is made to another variable or record field.
Whole variable references are created as follows:
a := 1:5 b := ref a b := 9 print aprints [1 9 3 4 5] and not [1 2 3 4 5]. If we then executed:
a := 121then b would now equal [1 9 121 4 5] (as would a). References to record field are created in the the same way:
rxd := [a = 3:1, b = "hello there"] sxd := [x = ref rxd.a, y = ref rxd.b] sxd.x := -4 # changes rxd.a, too print rxd.aprints -4.
A very important point to keep in mind when using reference is the way references are broken through assignment. It can be a source of unexpected problems. A reference allows two variables to refer to the same value, but assigning to either of the variables, as opposed to their elements, breaks the link. In the following,
x := 1:3 y := ref x x := 9 # changes y, too y := 10 # changes x, too x := 3:1 # !! breaks the reference !! x := 121 # does NOT modify yThe next to last assignment of 3:1 to x, instead of a subscripted elements of x, breaks the reference, and as a result, the final assignment does not modify y. After the last assignment, x equals [3, 121, 1], and y equals [10, 2, 9]. References to record fields behave in the same way.
The reference connection can be maintained across assignment, however, by explicitly stating that you want to do so by using the val operator. For example, after executing:
c := [1, 3, 7, 12] d := ref c val c := "hello there"the value of d (and of course c) will be the two-element string "hello there". Assigning to val d would similarly change the value of c.
The behavior of record fields is identical to that of other variables. For example,
r := [foo = 1:3, bar = "hello there"] s := [a = ref r.foo, b = ref r.bar] s.a := -4 # changes r.foo, too s.a := [T, T, T, T, T] # doesn't change r.foo val r.bar := 1:7 ^ 2 # changes s.b, too print r.foo, s.bprints -4 followed by 25.
The second assignment makes s a record with two fields, a and b, which are references to r.foo and r.bar.
The third assignment changes s.a and r.foo to be -4.
The fourth assignment breaks the link between s.a and r.foo, since we're assigning to the entire variable s.a and not just some of its elements.
The fifth assignment modifies both r.bar and s.b to be a vector of the first 7 squares. Without the val operator only r.bar would have been changed, and the link between r.bar and s.b broken.
It is also possible, though not recommended, to make the value referred to by a reference constant. This is done as follows:
c := 1 d := ref c const val d := 2This leaves c as a constant value, and d remains a reference to a constant value.
Partial value references can be created for any of the vector types. These references are created much like whole value references, but partial value references reference only a portion of the value. They also have more restrictions on their use than whole value references.
Partial value references are also created with the ref operator. Unlike whole value references, partial value references create an alias to a ``sub-vector'' or ``sub-array''. That is, they reference a portion of another vector or array. So for example,
vec := [1:10] svec := ref vec[5:9] svec := 20 # modifies vec, tooHere a vector with ten elements, vec, is created, and then a reference to a portion of that vector is created, svec. Modification to any of svec elements changes the respective elements in vec. In this case, modifying the forth element in svec also changes the eighth element of vec. The length of svec is 5 not 10.
Partial value references can be created for vector or array valued field in the same way. For example,
xle := [x=1:10, l=10:1, e=[2,7]] m := [t=ref xle.x[9:10], u=ref xle.l[9:10], v=ref xle.e] m.u := m.t # modifies xle.l as wellThis example shows how sub-vector references of fields are much like whole value references of fields. It is important to note, however, that one cannot take a partial value reference of a record. So,
mz := ref xle["x e"]is not valid.
Partial value references can also be created for arrays, and this is probably where they will prove most useful. In the following,
base := array(0,5,5) diag := ref base[array(1:5,5,2)] # a vector lower := ref base[4:5,] # a 2x5 array diag := 1 # modifies base[3,3], too lower[1:2,[1,5]] := 5 # modifies base[4:5,[1,5]], # AND diag, as wellIn this example, an array, base, is created. Then two partial value references, diag and lower, are created. diag references the elements along the diagonal of base, and lower references the fourth and fifth rows of base. Modifying elements of either of the elements of the references modifies the corresponding elements of base.
It is important to realize that partial value references are broken in the same way as whole value references. Continuing with the previous example,
diag := 5:9 # !! breaks reference !! lower[2,2] := 22 # modifies base[5,2], alsothe assignment to diag does not modify base. It breaks the reference link, and sets diag equal to 5:9. Assignments to lower elements, e.g. the second one, still modify base because that link is still intact.
Breaking partial value references to record fields happens identically.
There are more restrictions on how partial element references can be maintained than there are with whole value references. The val operator is used to explicitly maintain partial value references. For example,
a := 1:10 b := ref a[6:10] val a := 10:1 # modifies b as wellhere a vector, a , and a partial value reference, b are set up. Modifying the entirety of a changes the elements which b references. This type of manipulation must be done very cautiously, however, because if the referenced vector, a, is shortened the reference vector may become invalid. In the following,
val a := 6:10 # b is now INVALID!a is assigned a shorter vector. At this point, b is now invalid, and subsequent indexing into b will generated error messages.
The partial value reference can also be assigned to, but with restrictions. The length of the new value must match the length of the reference. So,
a := 1:10 b := ref a[6:10] val b := 11:15 # modifies a as wellhere b is used in a val assignment, but since the length of b and the length of the value being assigned are equal, all of b and the selected portion of a is changed. If the lengths were not equal, an error message would be reported. Continuing this example,
val b := 1:15 # ERROR!an assignment such as this would generate an error message.