Michelson is the domain-specific language used to write smart contracts on the Tezos blockchain. Michelson is a stack-based language and does not have variables. Stack-oriented languages operate on one or more stacks, each of which may serve a different purpose.

Key Michelson Resources

An Overview of Michelson

Michelson is a low-level, stack-based programming language used to write smart contracts on the Tezos blockchain. Michelson was designed to facilitate formal verification, allowing users to prove the properties of their contracts.

It uses a stack rewriting paradigm, whereby each function rewrites an input stack into an output stack. (The meaning of this will be fully explained below.) This runs in a purely functional way and does not modify the inputs at all. Thus, all data structures are immutable.

What is a Stack?

A stack is an abstract data type that serves as a collection of elements, with two principal operations: push (adds an element to the collection) and pop (removes the most recently added element that has not yet been removed). The order in which elements come off a stack gives rise to its alternative name, LIFO (last in, first out). Additionally, a peek operation may give access to the top without modifying the stack.

Source: Wikipedia.

Rewriting Stacks

To see what mean it means to rewrite stacks, we will run through a transaction in Michelson. First, before a transaction runs, the blockchain state at a certain hash is deserialized and put onto the stack as the variable storage. We have a from function that receives the transaction data amount , the amount of attached ꜩ, and the parameter , the function's parameters.

from [ (Pair (Pair amount parameter) storage) ]

After running the function, without any updates to the stack, the program will call a to function that has the parameters result, which is the result of the function, and the output storage that is serialized and stored on the blockchain.

to [ (Pair result storage) ]

In the example, Michelson only manipulates the stack functionally and a new stack is passed from function to function.