Limited Automata and Unary Languages
Limited automata are one-tape Turing machines that are allowed to rewrite the content of any tape cell only in the first d visits, for a fixed constant d. When \(d=1\) these models characterize regular languages. An exponential gap between the size of limited automata accepting unary languages and the size of equivalent finite automata is proved. Since a similar gap was already known from unary context-free grammars to finite automata, also the conversion of such grammars into limited automata is investigated. It is proved that from each unary context-free grammar it is possible to obtain an equivalent 1-limited automaton whose description has a size which is polynomial in the size of the grammar. Furthermore, despite the exponential gap between the sizes of limited automata and of equivalent unary finite automata, there are unary regular languages for which d-limited automata cannot be significantly smaller than equivalent finite automata, for any arbitrarily large d.