9.1. The Top Level

One of the biggest mistakes people make in a top-down design is failing to start at the true top. They think they know what the overall structure of the design should be, so they go ahead and write it down.

Whenever I start a new design, I always like to do it at the absolute beginning. In program design language (PDL), this top level looks something like:

     begin
        solve the problem
     end

OK, I grant you that this doesn't give much of a hint as to what the next level is, but I like to write it down anyway, just to give me that warm feeling that I am indeed starting at the top.

For our problem, the overall function of a compiler is to compile a complete program. Any definition of the language, written in BNF, begins here. What does the top level BNF look like? Well, that depends quite a bit on the language to be translated. Let's take a look at Pascal.