Why Use Formal Language in Specs (aka "formal specs")?

Subject: Why Use Formal Language in Specs (aka "formal specs")?
From: "Le Vie, DonaldX S" <donaldx -dot- s -dot- le -dot- vie -at- intel -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 08:57:34 -0800

Here's more info on formal specs:

Why Use Formal Specifications?
Formal specifications are:
* precise
* clear
* unambiguous
* provable
* can reason with formal specs (inference)
(natural languages aren't)

Formal specifications should be used for:
* safety critical systems
* security systems
* the definition of standards
* hardware development
* operating systems
* transaction processing systems
* anything that is hard, complex, or critical

There are some drawbacks...
1. Cost: it can be almost as costly to do a full formal specification as to
do all the coding. Solution: don't formally specify everything, just the
subsystems you need to (hard, complex, or critical)
2. Not everybody can read formal specs (especially customers and users)
Solution: get real!
3. No one wants to read pure formal specs -- formal specs should always be
interspersed with natural language (e.g. English) explanation.

Donn Le Vie

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