HLA - The High Level Assembly Programming Language
I've noted before that assembly language programming can be quite
engrossing. It's the level of detail that captivates; there
can be a great deal of craftmanship and mental challenge in
writing assembly programs.
However, the required detail can also be annoying and the source
of much boredom, particularly when you are working in the areas
that aren't really of interest to you, like simple screen output.
It's the drudgery that turns most of us to higher level languages.
The juxtaposition of "high level" and "assembly" is a cause
for raised eyebrows. Usually the approach to the "I don't want
to write that part" is handled by libraries, but HLA comes at it
as its own language.
Originally desgned for teaching, the concept was to allow
students familiar with C or Pascal to get a running start by
being able to use similar constructs. A quote from HLA's
creator, Randy Hyde:
HLA lets students write meaningful programs within about a week of
it's introduction (e.g., the first assignment I gave last quarter
was to write an "addition table" program that computes the outer
product [addition table] of the two vectors 0..15 and 0..15, printing
the table formatted nicely). They achieve this by using statements
they already know (like IF and WHILE) with the injection of just
a few assembly language concepts (registers, and the MOV and ADD
instructions) plus an introduction to the HLA Standard Library.
Over the next several weeks, these students write more and more
complex programs as they are introducd to new assembly language
and HLA concepts (e.g., data representation, basic architecture,
addressing modes, data types, and additional instructions). At
about the sixth week, I begin "weaning" these students off the high
level language statements and force them to use the low level
machine instructions. It turns out that they learn how to simulate
an IF statement at roughly the same point in the quarter as they
did when they used only MASM, but the big difference is that they've
written a lot more code up to that point proving out other concepts
in machine organzation and assembly language programming.
If you are already an assembly programmer, you probably won't like HLA:
remember, it was designed to teach, and to feel like a higher level
language. But if you just like to dabble, this could be fun.
What is HLA All About, Anyway?
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© 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence