NOTE: This transcription was contributed by Martin P.M. van der Burgt, who has devised a process for producing transcripts automatically. Although its markup is incomplete, we believe it serves a useful purpose by virtue of its searchability and its accessibility to text-reading software. It will be replaced by a fully marked-up version when time permits. —HR

An immediate sequel to EWD398: “Sequencing primitives revisited.”.

I have fixed the semantic definition of the and of the do...od constructs as introduced in EWD398.

Let “Sif” be: if B1:S1 ▯ ... ▯ Bn:Sn fi ; then wp(Sif, P) = {(E i: 1≤i≤n: Bi) and (1≤i≤n:(Bi and wp(Si, P)) or non Bi)} .

Let “Sdo” be: do B1:S1 ▯ ... ▯ Bn:Sn od ; then wp(Sdo, P) = (E i: 0 ≤i: Hi(Sdo, P)) , where the Hi(Sdo, P) are given by the recurrence relation:

H0(Sdo, P) = {P and non (E j: 1≤j≤n: Bi)}
for i >0:Hi(Sdo, P) = {wp(Sif, Hi-1(Sdo, P)) or Hi-1(Sdo, P)}
Here the “wp(Sif, ...) is the function defined above. The interpretation of Hi(Sdo, P) is ”the weakest precondition such that we can guarantee termination after at most i executions of a guarded command such that then the postcondition P will be satisfied. It is indeed the weakest precondition, if initially wp(Sdo, P) is not satisfied, either non-termination or termination without establishing the truth of P or both are possible. In terms of the Hi an alternative definition of the weakest precondition for the do...od construct could have been —but I prefer to avoid the limit concept—
  wp(Sdo, P) =lim Hi(Sdo, P)
i → inf
so we had better forget this again.

The decision to postulate —EWD398 - 4, last paragraph— “Fair random selection” so that the construct as described on top of page 5 and in the middle of page 8 is guaranteed to terminate, was a mistake: for such constructs we prefer now not to exclude non-termination. It is just too tricky if the termination —and in particular: the proof of the termination— has to rely on the fair randomness of the selection and we had better restrict ourselves to constructs were each guarded command, when executed, implies a further approaching of the terminal state.

27th November 1973 prof.dr.Edsger W.Dijkstra
Burroughs Research Fellow
Plataanstraat 5
NUENEN - 4565, The Netherlands

Transcribed by Martin P.M. van der Burgt
Last revision 2014-11-08 .