Hmm. Looks like we needed another slide.
The point about the retire op is that with it there is no prologue code any more. The whole thing – prologue, steady-state body, and epilog, is the same physical piece of code in the cache. If there were a conventional prologue these ops would be in instructions of their own, occupying cache of the steady-state body, that we need anyway, for the prologue too.
Yes, the ops that are logically “before the beginning” get executed, but they have no visible consequences and occupy no space that we wouldn’t use anyway. Yes, these ops do cost power – but they do not cost code space, which is a much more significant constraint in the big loops with low iteration counts typical of general-purpose code.
As for assembler, we agree with you that Mill concrete assembler (in which the programmer explicitly specifies the pelt positions of op arguments) is inhumane both to read and write If you have a program that you have written in concrete assembler then you can run it in the present simulator and see the belt contents and track them, instruction by instruction; the Specification talk shows this being done, live. We expect that a debugger on real hardware will provide a similar interface.
If you are writing in abstract assembler (specializer input, without belt assignments, as opposed to specializer output concrete asm) then there is no “current status of the belt” to view, because the code may be specialized for, and run on, different family members with different belt lengths and operation/instruction schedules. Only when these member-dependent aspects are blended into your abstract code – by the specializer – can a tool, or the hardware, know what is happening on the belt.
Unfortunately, while we are hard at work on the abstract assembler and specializer, they won’t be ready for some months yet. When they are, we are considering making them and the simulator available running on our servers from our web site, for anyone to play with. We’ll see. There are also some more distant plans – hopes, really – to provide a visual UI for the sim or debugger so the programmer can see the movement of data and events inside the running program, visually reminiscent of the animations in the talks. Not soon, though.