Control Matters
SPLat Controls' aperiodic newsletter

1 Feb 2011
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TABULA: A new programming tool, a new design approach

The field we are in, and our area of expertise, is digital machine controls. These controls invariable require two main attributes:

  • The ability to do several things at once (multitasking)
  • The ability to respond to external events and produce resulting actions that may depend on past history (aka context).

Time and time again we see people grappling with how to describe (specify)what such a multi-tasking, context-dependent control program should do. The problem is that normal "linear" English is not suited to describing context and concurrency. Trying to describe a complicate machine control in plain English is virtually impossible. You just wind up with to many ifs, buts, whens, howevers and exceptions, and the description turns into a linguistic bowl of spaghetti.

We have recently developed a tool that addresses at least part of this problem. It is called Tabula, and provides a simple, intuitive table based method for describing the relationships between events, actions and context (current system state). Beyond being a tool for working out and specifying the logic, Tabula also simulates the logic and generates SPLat code. Naturally Tabula also supports our MultiTrack multitasking system.

Tabula is completely free. It is fantastic for generating SPLat programs, and is also very useful for specifying and/or designing programs in other languages. Tabula has its own webpage here.

You can watch a brief video introduction to Tabula's use as a design/specification tool here. Tabula is solidly grounded in the theory of Finite State Machines, but this video adopts a different terminology to make it easier to understand for people who find the term "Finite State Machine" a bit too eye glazing. 

You can find the first of an more comprehensive video series here. This does use the Finite State Machine terminology.

Race horse trainer bets on SPLat

Here's an interesting application of a SPLat: A treadmill for race horses!

One of our long term customers, HydroCo, make all kinds top shelf hydrotherapy equipment. HydroCo use SPLat controllers (custom and off the shelf) in virtually all their products, which are the world's most prestigious brand of such equipment. Their products can be found in luxury day spas world-wide, in the homes of wealthy individuals and even on the Queen Mary II luxury cruise ship (all with SPLat controllers).

One of HydroCo's latest enterprises is a move into animal therapy. This includes a treadmill for race horses, which was featured on Australian national television some time ago. Click to view the TV story.

Have you seen our easy to digest Finite State Machine tutorial?
"I enjoy this tutorial a lot, thanks!".                               
Lee, China

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.   Richard Feynman

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Copyright 2011 SPLat Controls Pty Ltd. This communication does not constitute professional advice