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Synthesis from Formal Specification

It is desirable to eliminate the human aspect from hardware design and to leave as much as possible to the computer. The idea is that computers do not make mistakes, but there are various ways of looking at that!

A holy grail for CAD system designers is to restrict the human contribution towards a design to the top-level entry of a specification of the system in a formal language. By `formal' we tend to mean a declarative language based on set theory and typically one in which it is easy to prove properties of the system. (The Part II course on hardware specification shows how to use predicate logic to do this.) The detailed design is then synthesised by the system from the specification.

There are many ways of implementing a particular function and the number of ways of implementing a complete system is infinite. Most of these are silly, a few are sensible and one, perhaps, optimum. Research using expert systems to select the best implementation is ongoing, but human input is needed in practical systems. But the human input should only be a guide to synthesis, choosing a particular way out of many `formally correct' ways. Therefore errors cannot be introduced.

28: (C) 2008-11, DJ Greaves, University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory.