Constraints: A Language for Expressing Almost-Hierarchical Descriptions

Unknown author (1981-08-01)

We present an interactive system organized around networks of constraints rather than the programs which manipulate them. We describe a language of hierarchical constraint networks. We describe one method of deriving useful consequences of a set of constraints which we call propagation. Dependency analysis is used to spot and track down inconsistent subsets of a constraint set. Propagation of constraints is most flexible and useful when coupled with the ability to perform symbolic manipulations on algebraic expressions. Such manipulations are in turn best expressed as alterations or augmentations of the constraint network. Almost-Hierarchical Constraint Networks can be constructed to represent the multiple viewpoints used by engineers in the synthesis and analysis of electrical networks. These multiple viewpoints are used in terminal equivalence and power arguments to reduce the apparent synergy in a circuit so that it can be attacked algebraically.