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The authors introduce a new programming language concept, called typestate, which is a refinement of the concept of type. Whereas the type of a data object determines the set of operations over permitted on the object, typestate determines the subset of these operations which is permitted in a particular context. Typestate tracking is a program analysis technique which enhances program reliability by detecting at compile-time syntactically legal but semantically undefined execution sequences. These include reading a variable before it has been initialized and dereferencing a pointer after the dynamic object has been deallocated. The authors define typestate, give examples of its application, and show how typestate checking may be embedded into a compiler. They discuss the consequences of typestate checking for software reliability and software structure, and summarize their experience in using a high-level language incorporating typestate checking.