First Steps


SLI is the simulation language interface of NEST. It is a stack language where each command expects to find its arguments on the stack.

A stack is a place where data can be stored. The stack is organized into levels and the data can be thought of being on top of each other. As new data is entered, it is placed on the top of the stack. If a piece of data is removed or manipulated, this is usually done to the top level of the stack. The levels of the stack are numbered from zero onwards. Level zero corresponds to the top of the stack.

Initially the stack is empty. In general, you enter data onto the stack and then execute commands to manipulate the data.

Each command expects to find its arguments on the stack. When a SLI command is executed, it usually removes all arguments from the stack and pushes one or more results back on the stack. The basic concepts of stack operation are:

  • Commands that require arguments take their arguments from the stack. Thus, this data must be present before you execute the command.

  • The arguments are then removed by the command as it is executed.

  • Any results which are produced by the command are returned to the stack, so you can use them in other operations.

Commands with one argument

Commands which need one argument take their argument from the top of the stack. If the command produces a result, it is placed on top of the stack, after the argument has been removed. Thus, the argument is replaced by the result:


SLI ] 10 log =

Here, the command log is used to compute the decadic logarithm of 10. Then, the command = is used to display the result of this computation.

Commands with more arguments

Commands which need more than one argument, take their arguments from level 0, 1, 2, and so forth and return their result to level 0, the top of the stack. Examples are the arithmetic functions add, sub, mul, and div, which take two arguments and return one result.

SLI ] 1 2 add =
SLI ] 1 2. div =

So far, we have used the command = to display the top object on the stack. In addition, this command removes the object. You can also list the contents of the stack without changing it.

SLI ] 1 2
SLI [2] stack
SLI [2] add
SLI [1] stack
SLI [1]

Using previous results

Chain calculations are calculations which involve more than one operation. A stack is particularly useful for chaining operations,because it retains intermediate results.

This example shows, how the stack can be used for chain calculations. Calculate (10+13) \(cdot\) (8-12)

SLI [1] 10 13 add 8 12 sub
SLI [2] stack
SLI [2] mul =

Notice that the results of the fist two operations remain on the stack, until they are used in the multiplication.

Exchanging the first two stack levels

The command exch exchanges the contents of the levels 0 and 1. This is useful, if the order of objects on the stack does not match the order required by the desired command.

Example 1

Calculate 1/ln(2).

SLI ] 2 ln
SLI [1] 1
SLI [2] exch div
SLI [1] =

Removing stack elements

The command pop removes the top object (level 0) of the stack. The remaining items move up on the stack, so that the object which was at level 1 is now at level 0.

The command clear clears the entire stack.

Duplicating the top element

The command dup duplicates the contents of the object at level 0 and pushes the other element down one level. This command is useful if the result of an operation is needed more than once in a chain calculation.

Example 2

Calculate (1+4/2) + exp(1+4/2)

SLI ] 1 4 2.0 div add
SLI [1] dup
SLI [2] exp
SLI [2] add
SLI [1] =

Important stack commands

Command Description = Print the object at level 0. == Print the object at level 0 in syntax form. count Count the number of objects on the stack. patsck Display the stack in syntax form. stack Display the stack. pop, ; Pop object from stack. npop Pop n objects from stack. dup Duplicate top object of stack. copy Copy the first n objects of the stack. index Copy the n'th object of the stack. roll Roll a portion of n stack levels k times. exec Execute the top element on the stack.