POPLOG – teaching, research, and development

English: University of Sussex in front of the ...
University of Sussex in front of the Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POPLOG is an integrated toolkit providing a highly extendable collection of languages and tools suitable for absolute beginners, advanced researchers and system programmers. POPLOG’s core language is POP-11, which was developed by Robin Popplestone,  a pioneer in the fields of machine intelligence and robotics. Thus, when the British government created the Alvey Programme as a reaction to the Japanese Fifth generation computer project, POPLOG became a core component of many projects. You can experience this part of computing history for yourself by downloading a SliTaz LiveCD containing POPLOG or a VMware Virtual Appliance.

POPLOG is still ahead of many modern development environments in terms of the programming constructs available. Three things that set it apart are the built in pattern matcher, powerful screen editor VED and the ability to do mixed language programming. There is also an extensive help and documentation system. Currently POPLOG supports POP11, PROLOG, LISP and ML. Initial development of the system was done at the University of Sussex during the 80s. The open source version was originally made available by the University of Birmingham.

POPLOG is suitable for highly complex domains requiring complex decision rules and data structures. ISL, the company who marketed POPLOG before it was released as open source, was involved with the following application areas:

  • Avionics simulation (Avonicom)
  • Remote sensing / satellite image interpretation (NERC)
  • Traffic information management (TRRL)
  • Helical spring design (Smiths Industries)
  • Intelligent program prover (Program Validation)
  • ICAD/ICAM (GEC Electrical Projects)
  • System design for testability (RAF)
  • Air traffic control (CAA)
  • Image analysis (BP)
  • Real-time process monitoring/control (COGSYS)
  • Currency prediction (HP/BZW (/Logica))
  • Image processing tools (Reading University)

My favourite application areas are computational vision and computational linguistics. For computational vision, there is David Young’s library and for computationl linguistics the book Natural Language Processing by Gazdar, & Mellish. There are in fact three versions of the book. One for each of the languages POP11, PROLOG and LISP.

To get started either boot up the virtual machine or liveCD. Then click on the POPLOG icon to start the system. Once started you can then type in the commands found in “An introduction to POP-11” and Jocelyn Ireson-Paine’s article or read the “The POPLOG Primer“.

You might also like to try out the demo programs located in the home directory. Open up a terminal and cd into demos. The following demos are available:


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