In recent years great attention has been paid to the development of the
technology of programming for the embedded systems and real-time systems. These
systems have special requirements for the quality of software. One of the most
well known approaches for this field of tasks is synchronous programming
Simultaneously with the progress of synchronous programming in Europe, in
Russia an approach, called “automata-based programming” or
“state-based programming” is being created [2-4]. This method could be
considered as a type of synchronous programming.
This paper describes main properties of automata-based programming. It
contains such phases of software developing as designing, implementing,
debugging and documenting.
The term event in the programming has been used wider and wider in
programming. It has become one of the main terms in software development. The
offered approach is based on the term “state”. After introduction of the
term “input action”, which could be an input variable or an
event, the term “automaton without outputs” could be brought in.
After addition of the term “output action”, the term “automaton”
could be brought in. It is the finite determined automaton.
That is why, the sort of programming, which is based on this term was called
“automata-based programming” in paper . So the process of software creation
could be named “automata software design”.
The feature of this approach is that automata, used for developing, are
defined with the help of transition graphs. For distinguishing of the nodes of
these graphs the term “state coding” is to be introduced. When using
“multiple state coding” with the help of single variable it is possible
to distinguish amount of states which is equal to the amount of variables
values. This allows to introduce in programming the term “program
Using the offered approach, programming is to be performed using the concept
of “state”, not the concept of “flag variables”. It allows to understand
and specify the task and its parts (subtasks) better.
It is necessary to note that it automata-based programming debug is performed
with the help of drawing up the protocols (logging) in the terms of
In this approach there is a formal and isomorphic method of transfer from the
transition graph to the software source code. So when using programming
languages of the high level, the most suitable way is to use construction which
is similar to construction “switch” of the programming language C. That
is why the technology of “automata-based programming” in paper  was called as
Nowadays this technology is been developed in several variants, for different
types of task to be solved and for various type of computing devices.
In 1996 Russian Fund for Fundamental Investigations in the context of
publishing project № 96-01-14066 supports the publishing of book . Offered
technology was described in this book, being applied to the systems of logical
control, in which there are no events, input and output actions are binary
variables and operating system is working in the scanning mode.
Systems of this class as usual are to be implemented on programmable
logical controllers, which have relatively little memory and programming is
to be performed using specialized languages (for example, the language of
functional blocks) . In work  formal methods of program developing for
such kind of devices were offered. These methods are based on the giving
specification for the developing project with the help of set of connected
transition graphs. There were shown opportunities which are given by the
language of transition graphs comparing with “Graphset” language.
Henceforth automata approach was spread to the event-based (reactive)
systems . In systems of this kind all limitations, mentioned above are
taken away. It is obvious from the name of these systems that events are used
among the input actions. Role of output actions could be played by arbitrary
functions. Any real-time operating system could be used as an environment.
For programming for event-based systems with the help of automata a
procedural approach to software developing was used. So this king of programming
was called as “state-based programming” .
Using this method output actions are assigned to the arcs, loops or nodes of
the transition graphs (mixed automata are to be used - Moore-Mealy automata).
This allows to present sequences of actions, which are reactions to the
corresponding input actions, in the compact form.
On of the features of programming for the reactive systems is that
liquidation of logic in the event handlers and forming of system of interacting
automata, which are called from these handlers, causes logic centralization .
Automata in such system can interact by nesting, by calling ability and with the
help of state numbers interchange.
Last type of interaction is described in work , which declares that “this
type of interaction may be used as powerful tool for program verification”.
System of interconnected automata forms system-independent part of software.
At the same time system-dependent part is formed by functions of input and
output actions, event handlers and so on.
Another important feature of this approach is that automata in it are used
thrice: for specification, for implementation (they stay in the
source code) and for drawing up the protocol, which is performed, as said
above, in terms of automata.
Last property allows to verify the propriety of automata system functioning.
Logging is performed automatically, it is based on the created program. This
mechanism could be also used for large scale tasks and for task with difficult,
smeared software logic.
Any drawn up protocol could be considered as the action script. Note that for
the large tasks it is impossible to use sequence diagrams, cooperation diagrams,
which are parts of UML language . That is because usage of UML language
listed diagrams are suggested to be drawn up manually on the projection phase of
developing. In automata-based programming protocols will be build automatically
at the run-time.
Protocols allow to keep an eye on program execution and demonstrate that the
fact is that automata are not just the “pictures”, but they are actually
Automata approach is offered to be used not only for controlling system
developing, but also for objects of control modeling.
This method was approved on the task of developing of controlling system for
ship diesel generator . Mentioned system was specified with help of more
than thirteen interacting automata. For describing of model of diesel generator
automata were also used. While designing each automaton was provided with four
- verbal description (“expectancies declaration ”);
- bonds scheme, which explains on the human language all symbols which are
involved in automatons interface;
- state transition graph with symbolic indication of events, input and
- source code of program module, which realizes state transition graph
(also without usage of meaningful identifiers and comments).
These documents replace self documenting programs, which contains meaningful
identifiers and comments. These standard facilities cannot ensure the
understandability and clearness of the source code for further developing,
modifying and enlarging . This problem for difficult logic cannot be solved
also with the help of self documenting state transition graphs .
Realized project had proved expediency of protocols usage for verifying
propriety of interaction of such great amount of automata and each automaton
This project had been implemented for computing system with architecture
ix86. Henceforward described approach was evolved by N. I. Tukkel for developing
systems for microcontrollers. Advantage of automata technology is that all
design may be done on personal computer using Switch-technology and only on last
phase of developing software could be ported to microcontroller.
Object-Oriented State-Based Programming
The composite approach may be rather useful for solving task from a very
large spectrum, it is based on object-oriented and automata-based programming
paradigms. In work  this method was called as “object-oriented
Feature of this approach is that, like in Turing machines , here
controlling (automata) states are explicitly singled out.
The amount of these states is noticeably fewer than amount of all other
objects states (for example, run-time states).
The term “states space” was introduced in programming. This term means
the set of object controlling states.
So this approach provides more understandable behavior in comparison with
case when such space is absent.
The minimal set of documents, which are necessary for the visually and
clearly, but strictly describe structural (static) and behavioral (dynamic)
sides of the software.
As when using any other approach, this approach needs the set of heuristics,
back-steps, accurate definitions and concurrent tasks. But after program has
been developed offered approach may be named an ideal technology for storing of
decisions which had been made.
After analysis of the knowledge domain the classes could be defined and class
diagram may be drawn up.
For each class the verbal description needs to be created at least in the
form of list of tasks to be solved.
For each class the structure scheme is to be developed. This scheme describes
its interface and structure. Important note is that classes attributes and
member functions are to be separated to automaton and others.
If there are several automata in the same class then there is a need in
drawing up their interaction scheme.
For each automaton verbal definition is to be developed with the bond scheme
and state transition graph.
Each class implemented with the separate program module. Its structure is
isomorphic to classes structure. Member functions, which have corresponding
automata, are realizable according to the template, described in paper .
For system debugging and for confirmation of propriety of its work protocols
are automatically built during run-time. These protocols describe the
functioning of objects, which contains automata, in terms of states,
transitions, events, input and output actions.
Project documentation is to be made. Its important part is the program
From stated above it can concluded that application of automata makes
programs behavior clearer as objects using makes programs structure clearer.
Described approach was used for developing tank controlling system for
“Robocode” system .
In contrast to controlling systems of hundreds of other tanks, there is a
detailed project documentation for this tank. Documentation contains
state transition graphs, bond schemes and others.
Detailed protocols of tanks behavior allow to observe the history of battle.
Method of protocols drawing up may form a base of new paradigm of blackbox
In the described technology automata were implemented inside classes’ member
functions. But there could be another approaches to the object realization of
automata, which were described, for example in papers [16-18]. Automata may
stand out, in particular, and classes, which are descendants of the class that
realizes automata basic functionality. This functionality is declared by the
semantics of Switch-technology.
It is also possible to use classes, which realizes concepts of “state” or
“group of states”.
For automata programs design pattern “state”  or other patterns may be
Peculiarities of automata implementation of parallel processes, based on
messages interchange, are considered in paper .
Existence of high quality project documentation makes further program
refactoring (changing of programs structure, keeping its functionality the same)
much easier. Last thesis was confirmed by refactoring of tank controlling
system, which was mentioned above. Refactoring was complete for rising programs
Automata approach is used now for computational algorithms implementation
It was shown that arbitrary iterative algorithm can be implemented with the
help of construction, that is equivalent to loop operator “do … while”, inside
which there is single “switch” operator.
New approach to algorithms visualization programs creation which is based
on automata-based programming was offered. Such visualization programs are
widely used on Computer Science Department of Saint-Petersburg State University
of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics for students teaching of
programming and discrete mathematics .
Approach allows to represent visualization programs logic as a system of
interacting finite automata. Systems consists of pairs of automata, each of them
contains “forward” and “back forward” automata, which provides step-by-step
algorithms execution forwards and back forwards respectively.
One of the aims of this paper if to show that automata can be used not only
for language recognition  and washing machines control. That they are not
only one of mathematical models of discrete mathematics, but can be used for
implementation of any programs, which have complicated behavior.
Foundation for Open Project Documentation
At the opening of semifinal competitions of world team championship on
programming ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) in north-western region 27
of November 2002 the “Foundation for Open Project Documentation” was declared.
In the context of this foundation on site http://is.ifmo.ru/ section “Projects” was created.
In this section soon will be placed over 50 projects, which are examples of
software developing, using automata approach. Lets list some of them:
- automata realization of scripts for educational animation using
- XML-format for video players appearance description (http://www.crystalplayer.com/);
- combined usage of compilers developing theory and Switch-technology;
- tank controlling system for the Robocode game (sponsored by IBM)
. Tank Cynical, that had been developed, was decided to be one of the
best in the world. There also will be placed its refactored version, which, as
stated above, was developed for rising programs “objectness”;
- controlling systems for lift (like Knuth’s, but better), cars,
percolators, turnstile, semaphores and many others;
- possible, automata-based solutions of classical tasks:
- task of synchronization of the chain of the shooters;
- task of “philosophers dinner”;
- task of Hanoi-towers ;
- task of knights move ;
- many well-known classical algorithms (for example, QuickSort,
search of substrings and many others);
- illustrations of different approaches to object-oriented state-based
- automata as classes;
- automata as member functions;
- formal method of conversion of object-oriented automata programs to
programs, written using classical Switch-technology. It allows to develop models
of system using personal computer and then formally port it to microcontrollers
- “state” pattern;
- classes, which realize concepts of “state” and “group of states”;
- it was showed that automata have properties of objects, used in
- automata-based graphical users interface toolkit;
- windows manager, with supports all necessary functionality (dragging,
groping, resizing, overlapping, minimizing/maximizing, closing and so on);
- realization of protocol SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol);
- a lot of computer games:
- Automatic Bomber;
- Sea wars;
- Zavalinka (bank) and others.
In summary lets note that usage of automata makes formalization of
specification of program simpler. It defines programs behavior and plays “key
role in matter of inhibition of errors” .
It is important to note that “state-oriented programming” style is widely
used for solving tasks of logical control (classification of programming styles
was offered in book ). State-based programming stands upon two styles:
“state-oriented programming” and “event-based programming”. Object-oriented
state-based programming takes up object-oriented style and two styles, mentioned
The work was carried out with the support of Russian Fund for Fundamental
Investigations according to grant №02-07-90114 “Technology of automata-based
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