|Paradigms||imperative, structured, modular, data and procedure hiding, concurrent|
|Designed by||Niklaus Wirth|
|Typing discipline||Static, strong, safe|
|Platform||Lilith (AMD 2901)|
|Filename extensions||.mod, .m2, .def, .MOD, .DEF, .mi, .md|
|ETH compiler written by Niklaus Wirth|
|PIM2, PIM3, PIM4, ISO|
|Modula, Mesa, Pascal, ALGOL W, Euclid|
|Modula-3, Oberon, Ada, Fortran 90, Lua, Seed7, Zonnon, Modula-GM|
Modula-2 is a structured, procedural programming language developed between 1977 and 1985 by Niklaus Wirth at ETH Zurich. It was created as the language for the operating system and application software of the Lilith personal workstation. It was later used for programming outside the context of the Lilith.
- The module as a compiling unit for separate compiling
- The coroutine as the basic building block for concurrent processes
- Types and procedures that allow access to machine-specific data
The language design was influenced by the Mesa language and the Xerox Alto, both from Xerox PARC, that Wirth saw during his 1976 sabbatical year there. The computer magazine Byte devoted the August 1984 issue to the language and its surrounding environment.
This section is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. (January 2019)
Modula-2 is a general purpose procedural language, sufficiently flexible to do systems programming, but with much broader application. In particular, it was designed to support separate compiling and data abstracting in a straightforward way. Much of the syntax is based on Wirth's earlier and better-known language, Pascal. Modula-2 was designed to be broadly similar to Pascal, with some elements and syntactic ambiguities removed and the important addition of a module concept, and direct language support for multiprogramming.
Here is an example of the source code for the "Hello world" program:
MODULE Hello; FROM STextIO IMPORT WriteString; BEGIN WriteString("Hello World!") END Hello.
A Modula-2 module may be used to encapsulate a set of related subprograms and data structures, and restrict their visibility from other parts of the program. The module design implemented the data abstraction feature of Modula-2 in a very clean way. Modula-2 programs are composed of modules, each of which is made up of two parts: a definition module, the interface portion, which contains only those parts of the subsystem that are exported (visible to other modules), and an implementation module, which contains the working code that is internal to the module.
The language has strict scope control. The scope of a module can be considered as an impenetrable wall: Except for standard identifiers, no object from the outside is visible inside a module unless explicitly imported; no internal module object is visible from the outside unless explicitly exported.
Suppose module M1 exports objects a, b, c, and P by enumerating its identifiers in an explicit export list
DEFINITION MODULE M1; EXPORT QUALIFIED a, b, c, P; ...
Then the objects a, b,c, and P from module M1 become now known outside module M1 as M1.a, M1.b, M1.c, and M1.P. They are exported in a qualified manner to the outside (assumed module M1 is global). The exporting module's name, i.e. M1, is used as a qualifier followed by the object's name.
Suppose module M2 contains the following IMPORT declaration
MODULE M2; IMPORT M1; ...
Then this means that the objects exported by module M1 to the outside of its enclosing program can now be used inside module M2. They are referenced in a qualified manner, thusly: M1.a, M1.b, M1.c, and M1.P. Example:
... M1.a := 0; M1.c := M1.P(M1.a + M1.b); ...
Qualified export avoids name clashes: For example, if another module M3 would also export an object called P, then we can still distinguish the two objects, since M1.P differs from M3.P. Thanks to the qualified export it does not matter that both objects are called P inside their exporting modules M1 and M3.
An alternative method exists, which is in wide use by Modula-2 programmers. Suppose module M4 is formulated as this:
MODULE M4; FROM M1 IMPORT a, b, c, P;
Then this means that objects exported by module M1 to the outside can again be used inside module M4, but now by mere references to the exported identifiers in an unqualified manner, thusly: a, b, c, and P. Example:
... a := 0; c := P(a + b); ...
This method of unqualifying import allows use of variables and other objects outside their exporting module in exactly the same simple, i.e. unqualified, manner as inside the exporting module. The walls surrounding all modules have now become irrelevant for all those objects for which this has been explicitly allowed. Of course unqualifying import is only usable if there are no name clashes.
These export and import rules may seem unnecessarily restrictive and verbose. But they do not only safeguard objects against unwanted access, but also have the pleasant side-effect of providing automatic cross-referencing of the definition of every identifier in a program: if the identifier is qualified by a module name, then the definition comes from that module. Otherwise if it occurs unqualified, simply search backwards, and you will either encounter a declaration of that identifier, or its occurrence in an IMPORT statement which names the module it comes from. This property becomes very useful when trying to understand large programs containing many modules.
The language provides for (limited) single-processor concurrency (monitors, coroutines and explicit transfer of control) and for hardware access (absolute addresses, bit manipulation, and interrupts). It uses a nominal type system.
There are two major dialects of Modula-2. The first is PIM, named for the book Programming in Modula-2 by Niklaus Wirth. There were three major editions of PIM: the second, third (corrected), and fourth. Each describes slight variants of the language. The second major dialect is ISO, named for the standardization effort by the International Organization for Standardization. Here are a few of the differences among them.
- PIM2 (1983)
- Required explicit
EXPORTclause in definition modules.
SIZEneeds to be imported from module
- Required explicit
- PIM3 (1985)
- Removed the
EXPORTclause from definition modules following the observation that everything within a definition module defines the interface to that module, hence the
EXPORTclause was redundant.
SIZEis pervasive (visible in any scope without import)
- Removed the
- PIM4 (1988)
- Specified the behaviour of the
MODoperator when the operands are negative.
- Required all
ARRAY OF CHARstrings to be terminated by ASCII NUL, even if the string fits exactly into its array.
- Specified the behaviour of the
- ISO (1996, 1998)
There are several supersets of Modula-2 with language extensions for specific application domains:
- PIM supersets
- Canterbury Modula-2, extended with Oberon-like extensible records [This has been withdrawn and is no longer available anywhere]
- Modula-2+, extended with preemptive threads and exceptions
- Modula-2*, parallel extension
- Modula-P, another parallel extension
- Modula–Prolog, adds a Prolog layer
- Modula/R, adds relational database extensions
- Modula-GM, adds embedded system extensions
- ISO supersets
- IEC supersets
- Mod51, extended with IEC1131 constructs for embedded development
There are several derivative languages that resemble Modula-2 very closely but are new languages in their own right. Most are different languages with different purposes and with strengths and weaknesses of their own:
- Modula-3, developed by a team of ex-Xerox employees who had moved to DEC and Olivetti
- Oberon, developed at ETH Zürich for System Oberon available online.
- Oberon-2, Oberon with OO extensions
- Active Oberon, yet another object-oriented Extension of Oberon, developed also at ETH with the main objective to support parallel programming on multiprocessor and multicore systems.
- Parallaxis, a language for machine-independent data-parallel programming
- Umbriel, developed by Pat Terry as a teaching language
- YAFL, a research language by Darius Blasband
Many other current programming languages have adopted features of Modula-2.
PIM [2,3,4] defines 40 reserved words:
AND ELSIF LOOP REPEAT ARRAY END MOD RETURN BEGIN EXIT MODULE SET BY EXPORT NOT THEN CASE FOR OF TO CONST FROM OR TYPE DEFINITION IF POINTER UNTIL DIV IMPLEMENTATION PROCEDURE VAR DO IMPORT QUALIFIED WHILE ELSE IN RECORD WITH
PIM [3,4] defines 29 built-in identifiers:
ABS EXCL LONGINT REAL BITSET FALSE LONGREAL SIZE BOOLEAN FLOAT MAX TRUE CAP HALT MIN TRUNC CARDINAL HIGH NIL VAL CHAR INC ODD CHR INCL ORD DEC INTEGER PROC
Embedded system use
Modula-2 is used to program many embedded systems.
Cambridge Modula-2 by Cambridge Microprocessor Systems is based on a subset of PIM4 with language extensions for embedded development. The compiler runs on DOS and it generates code for Motorola 68000 series (M68k) based embedded microcontrollers running a MINOS operating system.
Mod51 by Mandeno Granville Electronics is based on ISO Modula-2 with language extensions for embedded development following IEC1131, an industry standard for programmable logic controllers (PLC) closely related to Modula-2. The Mod51 compiler generates standalone code for 80C51 based microcontrollers.
Delco Electronics, then a subsidiary of GM Hughes Electronics, developed a version of Modula-2 for embedded control systems starting in 1985. Delco named it Modula-GM. It was the first high-level programming language used to replace machine code (language) for embedded systems in Delco's engine control units (ECUs). This was significant because Delco was producing over 28,000 ECUs per day in 1988 for GM. This was then the world's largest producer of ECUs. The first experimental use of Modula-GM in an embedded controller was in the 1985 Antilock Braking System Controller which was based on the Motorola 68xxx microprocessor, and in 1993 Gen-4 ECU used by the Champ Car World Series Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and Indy Racing League (IRL) teams. The first production use of Modula-GM was its use in GM trucks starting with the 1990 model year vehicle control module (VCM) used to manage GM Powertrain's Vortec engines. Modula-GM was also used on all ECUs for GM's 90° Buick V6 engine family 3800 Series II used in the 1997-2005 model year Buick Park Avenue. The Modula-GM compilers and associated software management tools were sourced by Delco from Intermetrics.
Modula-2 was selected as the basis for Delco's high level language because of its many strengths over other alternative language choices in 1986. After Delco Electronics was spun off from GM (with other component divisions) to form Delphi Automotive Systems in 1995, global sourcing required that a non-proprietary high-level software language be used. ECU embedded software now developed at Delphi is compiled with commercial compilers for the language C.
- Amsterdam Compiler Kit (ACK) Modula-2 – for MINIX; freeware
- ADW Modula-2 – for Windows, ISO compliant, ISO/IEC 10514-1, ISO/IEC 10514-2 (OO extension), ISO/IEC 10514-3 (Generic extension); freeware
- Aglet Modula-2 – for AmigaOS 4.0 for PowerPC; freeware
- Fitted Software Tools (FST) Modula-2 – for DOS; freeware
- Gardens Point Modula-2 (GPM) – for BSD, Linux, OS/2, Solaris; ISO compliant; freeware, as of 30 July 2014
- Gardens Point Modula-2 (GPM/CLR) – for .NET Framework; freeware
- GNU Modula-2 – for GCC platforms, version 1.0 released December 11, 2010; compliance: PIM2, PIM3, PIM4, ISO; free software, GNU General Public License (GPL)
- M2Amiga – for Amiga; free software
- M2M – by N. Wirth and collaborators from ETH Zurich, cross-platform, generates M-code for virtual machine; freeware
- MacMETH – by N. Wirth and collaborators from ETH Zurich for Macintosh, Classic only; freeware
- Mod51 – for the Intel 80x51 microcontroller family, ISO compliant, IEC1132 extensions; proprietary software
- Megamax Modula-2 – for Atari ST with documentation in German only; freeware
- Modula-2 R10 – reference compiler for this Modula; open-source, peer review
- ModulaWare – for OpenVMS (VAX and Alpha), ISO compliant; proprietary software
- ORCA/Modula-2 – for Apple IIGS by The Byte Works for the Apple Programmer's Workshop
- p1 Modula-2 – for Macintosh, Classic and macOS (PowerPC and Carbon (API) only), ISO compliant; proprietary software
- MOCKA – for various platforms, PIM compliant; commercial, freeware Linux/BSD versions
- TDI Modula-2 – for Atari ST, by TDI Software
- Terra M2VMS – for OpenVMS (VAX and Alpha), PIM compliant; proprietary software
- m2c, Ulm Modula-2 System – for Solaris (Sun SPARC and Motorola 68k); free software, GNU General Public License (GPL)
- XDS – ISO compliant, TopSpeed compatible library: Native XDS-x86 for x86 (Windows and Linux); XDS-C for Windows and Linux (16- and 32-bit versions), targets C (K&R & ANSI); freeware
Turbo Modula-2 was a compiler and an integrated development environment for MS-DOS developed, but not published, by Borland. Jensen and Partners, which included Borland cofounder Niels Jensen, bought the unreleased codebase and turned it into TopSpeed Modula-2. It was eventually sold to Clarion, now owned by SoftVelocity, which still offers the Modula-2 compiler as part of its Clarion product line.
A Zilog Z80 CP/M version of Turbo Modula-2 was briefly marketed by Echelon under license from Borland. A companion release for Hitachi HD64180 was sold by Micromint as a development tool for their SB-180 single-board computer.
IBM had a Modula-2 compiler for internal use which ran on both OS/2 and AIX, and had first class support in IBM's E2 editor. IBM Modula-2 was used for parts of the OS/400 Vertical Licensed Internal Code (effectively the kernel of OS/400). This code was replaced with C++ when OS/400 was ported to the IBM RS64 processor family. A Motorola 68000 backend also existed, which may have been used in embedded systems products.
Modula-2 is used to program some operating systems (OSs). The Modula-2 module structure and support are used directly in two related OSs.
The OS named Medos-2, for the Lilith workstation, was developed at ETH Zurich, by Svend Erik Knudsen with advice from Wirth. It is a single user, object-oriented operating system built from Modula-2 modules.
The OS named Excelsior, for the Kronos workstation, was developed by the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, Siberian branch, Novosibirsk Computing Center, Modular Asynchronous Developable Systems (MARS) project, Kronos Research Group (KRG). It is a single user system based on Modula-2 modules.
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- D. Blasband, The YAFL Programming Language, Second Edition, 
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- Development of electronics for GM auto racing
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