Understanding UniqSupply

Sebastian Graf sgraf1337 at gmail.com
Mon Jul 23 11:05:34 UTC 2018

Hi all,

I'm trying to understand when it is necessary to `splitUniqSupply`, or even
to create my own supply with `mkSplitUniqSupply`.

First, my understanding of how `mkSplitUniqSupply` (
works is as follows:

   - The `unsafeInterleaveIO` makes it so that `genSym` is actually forced
   before any of the recursive calls to `mk_split` force their `genSym`,
   regardless of evaluation order
   - This guarentees a certain partial order on produced uniques: Any
   parent `UniqSupply`'s `Unique` is calculated by a call to
   compiler/cbits/genSym.c#genSym() before any `Unique`s of its offsprings are
   - The order of `Unique`s on different off-springs of the same
   `UniqSupply` is determined by evaluation order as a result of
   `unsafeInterleaveIO`, much the same as when we create two different
   `UniqSupply`s by calls to `mkSplitUniqSupply`
   - So, `unfoldr (Just . takeUniqFromSupply) us) !! n` is always
   deterministic and strictly monotone, in the sense that even forcing the
   expression for n=2 before n=1 will have a lower `Unique` for n=1 than for
   - This is of course all an implementation detail

These are the questions that bother me:

   1. `takeUniqSupply` returns as 'tail' its first off-spring, whereas
   `uniqsFromSupply` always recurses into its second off-spring. By my
   intuition above, this shouldn't really make much of a difference, so what
   is the motivation for that?
   2. The docs state that the character tag/domain/prefix in the call to
   `mkSplitUniqSupply` should be unique to guarantee actual uniqueness of
   produced `Unique`s. Judging from the implementation of `genSym`, which is
   unaware of the specific domain to draw the next unique from, this is an
   unnecessarily strong condition?! Also there are multiple places in the code
   base spread over module boundaries even (e.g. CorePrep, SimplCore) that
   call `mkSplitUniqSupply` with the same character anyway. Maybe there should
   at least be some clarifying comment on why this isn't a problem?
   3. Judging from SimplCore, we probably want to `splitUniqSupply` after
   each iteration/transformation, either through a call to `splitUniqSupply`
   or `getUniqueSupplyM`. Is that right?
   4. What's the need for splitting anyway? I suspect it's a trick to avoid
   state threading that would be necessary if we just had `type UniqSupply =
   [Unique]`. Would that really be a bad thing, considering we mostly work in
   `UniqSM` anyway? Is there anything else to it?

Happy to hear from you!
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