How static data, variables and constants are expressed in textual inter programs.

§1. Data packages. To recap from Textual Inter: an Inter program is a nested hierarchy of packages. Some are special _code packages which define functions; the rest we will call "data packages".1 Note that the compulsory outer main package is a data package. The instructions which can appear in data packages are the subject of this section.

§2. Variable and values. The instruction variable seems a good place to begin, since it creates an easily-understood piece of data. For example:

    variable V_score = 10

declares a new variable V_score, and assigns it the initial value 10. This is a global variable, accessible across the whole program.

§3. A number of different notations are allowed as numerical values:

Note that Inter does not specify the word size, that is, the maximum range of integers; many Inter programs are written on the assumption that this will be 16-bit and would fail if that assumption were wrong, or vice versa, but other Inter programs work fine whichever is the case. Real numbers, however, can only be used in 32-bit programs, and even then only have the accuracy of float, not double.

§4. There are also several forms of text:

§5. There are two oddball value notations which should be used as little as possible:

§6. Constant and extended values. The instruction constant defines a name for a given value. For example:

    constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70

The name of this constant can then be used wherever a value is needed. Thus:

    package main _plain
        constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70
        variable V_speed = SPEED_LIMIT

§7. Constants also allow us to write more elaborate values than are normally allowed — so-called "extended values". In particular:

§8. Readers with experience of Inform 6 will recognise that { ... } and bytes{ ... } correspond to I6's Array --> and Array -> respectively, that bounded { ... } and bounded bytes{ ... } correspond to Array table and Array buffer, and that list of N words and list of N bytes correspond to Array --> N and Array -> N. Note, however, that Inter does not suffer from the ambiguity of Inform 6's old syntax here. The Inter list { 20 } is unambiguously a one-entry list whose one entry is 20; it is quite different from list of 20 words.

§9. Lists are obviously useful. Here are some examples:

    constant squares = { 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100 }
    constant colours = { "red", "green", "blue" }
    constant lists = { squares, colours }

The distinction between a struct and a list is only visible if typechecking is used (see below); the expectation is that a list would contain a varying number of entries all of the same type, whereas a struct would contain a fixed number of entries of perhaps different but predetermined types.

§10. Calculated values are an unusual but very useful feature of Inter. Consider:

    constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70
    constant SAFE_SPEED = difference{ SPEED_LIMIT, 5 }

This effectively declares that SAFE_SPEED will be 65. What makes this useful is that when two Inter programs are linked together, SAFE_SPEED might be declared in one and SPEED_LIMIT in the other, and it all works even though the compiler of one could see the 70 but not the 5, and the compiler of the other could see the 5 but not the 70.

§11. URL notation. All identifier names are local to their own packages. So, for example, this:

    package main _plain
        package one _plain
            constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70
            variable V_speed = SPEED_LIMIT
        package two _plain
            variable V_speed = 12

is a legal Inter program and contains two different variables. But this:

    package main _plain
        package one _plain
            constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70
        package two _plain
            variable V_speed = SPEED_LIMIT

...does not work. The variable V_speed is declared in package two, where the constant SPEED_LIMIT does not exist.

This might seem to make it impossible for material in one package to refer to material in any other, but in fact we can, using URL notation:

    package main _plain
        package one _plain
            constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70
        package two _plain
            variable V_speed = /main/one/SPEED_LIMIT

Here /main/one/SPEED_LIMIT is an absolute "URL" of the symbol SPEED_LIMIT. If we return to the example:

    package main _plain
        package one _plain
            constant SPEED_LIMIT = 70
            variable V_speed = SPEED_LIMIT
        package two _plain
            variable V_speed = 12

we see that the two variables have different URLs, /main/one/V_speed and /main/two/V_speed.

§12. Annotations. A few of the defined names in Inter can be "annotated".

Many annotations are simply markers temporarily given to these names during the compilation process, and they usually do not change the meaning of the program. For example, the final C code generator annotates the names of arrays with their addresses in (virtual) memory, with the __array_address annotation. In textual format:

    constant my_array = { 1, 2, 4, 8 } __array_address=7718

All annotation names begin with a double underscore, __. They do not all express a value: some are boolean flags, where no =... part is written.

For the list of standard annotation names in use, see Inform Annotations.

§13. Metadata constants. If constant names begin with the magic character ^ then they represent "metadata", describing the program rather than what it does. They are not data in the program at all. Thus:

    constant ^author = "Jonas Q. Duckling"

is legal, but:

    constant ^author = "Jonas Q. Duckling"
    variable V_high_scorer = ^author

is not, because it tries to use a piece of metadata as if it were data.

§14. Types in Inter. Inter is an exceptionally weakly typed language. It allows the user to choose how much type-checking is done.

Inter assigns a type to every constant, variable and so on. But by default those types are always a special type called unchecked, which means that nothing is ever forbidden. This is true even if the type seems obvious:

    constant SPEED_LIMIT = 20

gives SPEED_LIMIT the type unchecked, not (say) int32. If a storage object such as a variable has type unchecked, then anything can be put into it; and conversely an unchecked value can always be used in any context.

So if we want a constant or variable to have a type, we must give it explicitly:

    constant (int32) SPEED_LIMIT = 20
    variable (text) WARNING = "Slow down."

The "type marker" (int32), which is intended to look like the C notation for a cast, gives an explicit type. The following, however, will be rejected:

    constant (int32) SPEED_LIMIT = 20
    variable (text) WARNING = SPEED_LIMIT

This is because WARNING has type text and cannot hold an int32. This is typechecking in action, and although you must volunteer for it, it is real. By conscientiously applying type markers throughout your program, you can use Inter as if it were a typed language.

§15. An intentional hole in this type system is that literals which look wrong for a given type can often be used as them. This, for instance, is perfectly legal:

    constant (text) SPEED_LIMIT = 20
    variable (int32) WARNING = "Slow down."

The type of a constant or variable is always either unchecked or else is exactly what is declared in brackets, regardless of what the value after the equals sign looks as if it ought to be. However, a weaker form of checking is actually going on under the hood: numerical data has to fit. So for example:

    constant (int2) true = 1
    constant (int2) false = 0
    constant (int2) dunno = 2

allows true and false to be declared, but throws an error on dunno, because 2 is too large a value to be stored in an int2. Even this checking can be circumvented with a named constant of type unchecked, as here:

    constant dangerous = 17432
    constant (int2) safe = dangerous

This is allowed, and the result may be unhappy, but the user asked for it.

§16. Types are like values in that simple ones can be used directly, but to make more complicated ones you need to give them names. The analogous instruction to constant, which names a value, is typename, which names a type.

The basic types are very limited: int2, int8, int16, int32, real and text. These are all different from each other, except that an int16 can always be used as an int32 without typechecking errors, but not vice versa; and so on for other types of integer.

Note that Inter takes no position on whether or not these are signed; the literal -6 would be written into an int8, an int16 or an int32 in a twos-complement signed way, but Inter treats all these just as bits.

With just five types it really seems only cosmetic to use typename:

    typename boolean = int2
    constant (boolean) true = 1
    variable (boolean) V_flag = true
    typename truth_state = boolean

But what brings typename into its own is that it allows the writing of more complex types. For example:

    typename bit_stream = list of int2
    constant (bit_stream) signal = { 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1 }
    variable (bit_stream) V_buffer = signal

list of T is allowed only for simple types T, so list of list of int32, say, is not allowed: but note that a typename is itself a simple type. So:

    typename bit_stream = list of int2
    typename signal_list = list of bit_stream
    constant (bit_stream) signal1 = { 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1 }
    constant (bit_stream) signal2 = { }
    constant (bit_stream) signal3 = { 0, 1, 1 }
    constant (signal_list) log = { signal1, signal2, signal3 }
    variable (signal_list) V_buffer = log

will create a variable whose initial contents are a list of three lists of int2 values.

§17. The "type constructions" allowed are as follows:

Inter applies the usual rules of covariance and contravariance when matching these types. For example:

§18. This enables us to declare the type of a function. A typed version of Hello might look like this:

package main _plain
    typename void_function = function void -> void
    package (void_function) Main _code
            inv !enableprinting
            inv !print
                val "Hello, world.\n"

And similarly:

    typename ii_i_function = function int32 int32 -> int32
    package (ii_i_function) gcd _code

creates a function called gcd whose type is int32 int32 -> int32. Note that only _code packages are allowed to be marked with a type, because only _code package names are values.

§19. As an example of structures:

    typename city_data = struct real real text
    constant (city_data) L = struct{ r"+51.507", r"-0.1275", "London" }
    constant (city_data) P = struct{ r"+48.857", r"+2.3522", "Paris" }

§20. Enumerations and instances. That leaves enumerations, which have the enigmatically concise type enum. Only a typename can have this type: it may be concise but it is not simple. (So list of enum is not allowed.) enum is special in that each different time it is declared, it makes a different type. For example:

    typename city = enum
    typename country = enum
    typename nation = country

Here there are two different enumerated types: city and another one which can be called either country or nation.

As in many programming languages, an enumerated type is one which can hold only a fixed range of values known at compile time: for example, perhaps it can hold only the values 1, 2, 3, 4. An unusual feature of Inter is that the declaration does not specify these permitted values. Instead, they must be declared individually using the instance instruction. For example:

    typename city = enum
    instance (city) Berlin
    instance (city) Madrid
    instance (city) Lisbon

For obvious reasons, the type marker — in this case (city) — is compulsory, not optional as it was for constant, variable and package declarations.

At runtime, the values representing these instances are guaranteed to be different, but we should not assume anything else about those values. The final code-generator may choose to number them 1, 2, 3, but it may not. (When enumerations are used by the Inform 7 tool-chain for objects, the runtime values will be object IDs in the Z-machine or pointers to objects in Glulx or C, for instance.)

If we need specific numerical values (which must be non-negative), we can specify that explicitly:

    typename city = enum
    instance (city) Berlin = 1
    instance (city) Madrid = 17
    instance (city) Lisbon = 201

You should either specify values for all instances of a given enumeration, or none.

Note that instances do not have to be declared in the same package, or even the same program, as the enumeration they belong to.

§21. Subtypes. Enumerated types, but no others, can be "subtypes". For example:

    typename K_thing = enum
    typename K_vehicle <= K_thing
    typename K_tractor <= K_vehicle

An instance of K_tractor is now automatically also an instance of K_vehicle, but the converse is not necessarily true.

The right-hand side of the <= sign is only allowed to be an enumerated typename, and a new typename created in this way is, for obvious reasons, also enumerated.

§22. Properties. Inter supports a simple model of properties and values. (An enumerated typename is in effect a class, and this is why instances are so called.)

A property is a set of similarly-named variables belonging, potentially, to any number of owners, each having their own value. As with constants and variables, properties can optionally have types. For example:

    property population
    property (text) motto

Any instance can in principle have its own copy of any property, and so can an enumerated type as a whole. But this is allowed only if an explicit permission is granted:

    typename city = enum
    instance (city) Stockholm
    instance (city) Odessa
    permission for city to have population
    permission for Odessa to have motto

And we can now use the propertyvalue instruction to set these:

    propertyvalue population of Stockholm = 978770
    propertyvalue population of Odessa = 1015826
    propertyvalue motto of Odessa = "Pearl of the Black Sea"

§23. An optional extended form of permission is allowed which enables us to say that we want the storage for a property to be in a given list. Thus:

    constant population_storage = { 2, 978770, 1015826 }
    typename city = enum
    instance (city) Stockholm
    instance (city) Odessa
    property population
    permission for city to have population population_storage

But this is finicky, and has to be set up just right in order to work.2

§24. Insert. Never use insert.

§25. Well, okay then. This exists to implement very low-level features of Inform 7, going back to its earliest days as a programming language, when people were still writing strange hybrid programs partly in I6.

insert tells Inter that it needs to add this raw I6-syntax material to the program:

    insert "\n[ LITTLE_USED_DO_NOTHING_R; rfalse; ];\n"

§26. Splats. And never use splat either.

§27. Well, okay then. We do in fact temporarily make splats when compiling kit source, written in Inform 6 syntax, into Inter. During that process, there are times when the source code is only partially digested. Each individual I6-syntax directive is converted into a "splat" holding its raw text. But this is then later translated into better Inter, and the splat removed again. For details, if you really must, see The Splat Construct (in bytecode).

The name "splat" is chosen as a psychological ploy, to make people feel queasy about using this. See also "glob" above, which is the analogous construction for values rather than void-context material.