Greetings to all. I am writing today to share a personal story / exploration using Maple of an algorithm from the history of combinatorics. The problem here is to count the number of strings over a certain alphabet which consist of some number of letters and avoid a set of patterns (these patterns are strings as opposed to regular expressions.) This counting operation is carried out using rational generating functions that encode the number of admissible strings of length n in the coefficients of their series expansions. The modern approach to this problem uses the Goulden-Jackson method which is discussed, including a landmark Maple implementation from a paper by D. Zeilberger and J. Noonan, at the following link at math.stackexchange.com (Goulden-Jackson has its own website, all the remaining software described in the following discussion is available at the MSE link.) The motivation for this work was a question at the MSE link about the number of strings over a two-letter alphabet that avoid the pattern ABBA.
As far as I know before Goulden-Jackson was invented there was the DFA-Method (Deterministic Finite Automaton also known as FSM, Finite State Machine.) My goal in this contribution was to study and implement this algorithm in order to gain insight about its features and how it influenced its powerful successor. It goes as follows for the case of a single pattern string: compute a DFA whose states represent the longest prefix of the pattern seen at the current position in the string as it is being scanned by the DFA, with the state for the complete pattern doubling as a final absorbing state, since the pattern has been seen. Translate the transitions of the DFA into a system of equations in the generating functions representing strings ending with a given maximal prefix of the pattern, very much like Markov chains. Finally solve the system of equations for the generating functions and thus obtain the sequence of values of strings of length n over the given alphabet that avoid the given pattern.
I have also implemented the DFA method for sets of patterns as opposed to just one pattern. The algorithm is the same except that the DFA does not consist of a chain with backlinks as in the case of a single pattern but a tree of prefixes with backlinks to nodes higher up in the tree. The nodes in the tree represent all prefixes that need to be tracked where obviously a common prefix between two or more patterns is shared i.e. only represented once. The DFA transitions emanating from nodes that are leaves represent absorbing states indicating that one of the patterns has been seen. We run this algorithm once it has been verified that the set of patterns does not contain pairs of patterns where one pattern is contained in another, which causes the longer pattern to be eliminated at the start. (Obviously if the shorter pattern is forbidden the so is the longer.) The number of states of the DFA here is bounded above by the sum of the lengths of the patterns with subpatterns eliminated. The uniqueness property of shared common prefixes holds for subtrees of the main tree i.e. recursively. (The DFA method also copes easily with patterns that have to occur in a certain order.)
I believe the Maple code that I provide here showcases many useful tricks and techniques and can help the reader advance in their Maple studies, which is why I am alerting you to the web link at MSE. I have deliberately aimed to keep it compatible with older versions of Maple as many of these are still in use in various places. The algorithm really showcases the power of Maple in combinatorics computing and exploits many different aspects of the software from the solution of systems of equations in rational generating functions to the implementation of data structures from computer science like trees. Did you know that Maple permits nested procedures as known to those who have met Lisp and Scheme during their studies? The program also illustrates the use of unit testing to detect newly introduced flaws in the code as it evolves in the software life cycle.
Enjoy and may your Maple skills profit from the experience!
The software is also available here: dfam-mult.txt