Compiler Design (Old)

Adding a DFM computation

What you have to do to add a new node class to the DFM:

  • Add it to flow-graph/computation.dylan, and ensure that you export

    it from flow-graph/flow-graph-library.

  • Create the converters to generate it. Likely in conversion, but some nodes are only created by optimizations.

  • Make sure all the back ends handle it. This includes, at least:

    • c-back-end

    • debug-back-end – the printer

    • all native back ends

  • In addition, it would be good to add any invariant checks to flow-graph/checker.dylan.

DFM block constructs


First, let’s look at an example of bind-exit.

block (exit) exit(42); 13 end; =>
  t2 := [BIND-EXIT entry-state: &t1 body: L1 exit-to: L0]
  t4 := ^42
  t12 := exit entry-state: &t1 value: t4
  t6 := ^13
  end-exit-block entry-state: &t1
  t7 := [MERGE t2 t6]
  return t7

(That’s before register assignment, to make the difference in the temporaries used in the merge node clear.)

The <bind-exit> node establishes the place the exit jumps to, an <entry-state>. This is communicated to <exit> and <end-exit-block> through the temporary t1. The temporary returned by the <bind-exit> is set by the exit procedure.

(The printing code shows up one inconsistency: the temporary generated by the <bind-exit> node is actually not live after that point. It’s live only if the exit procedure is taken. On the other hand, the entry-state is live after that point. Perhaps which temporary is the generated one from a <bind-exit> node should be exchanged.)

The merge node combines the two temporaries that could contain the result of the <merge> node – t2 by exiting, t6 by falling through. The <end-exit-block> node exists for at least two purposes: to possibly bash the exit procedure or entry state in order to prevent calls outside of its dynamic scope and to stop a thread in the execution engine. It references the entry state in order that it can be found from the <bind-exit> node.

Before we see the compiled code, here’s the DFM code after register allocation:

block (exit) exit(42); 13 end; =>
  t2 := [BIND-EXIT entry-state: &t0 body: L1 exit-to: L0]
  t1 := ^42
  t3 := exit entry-state: &t0 value: t1
  t2 := ^13
  end-exit-block entry-state: &t0
  t2 := [MERGE t2 t2]
  return t2

And this is the C code:

block (exit) exit(42); 13 end; =>
  D L4988I () {
    D T0;
    D T2;
    D T1;
    D T3;

    T0 = dNprimitive_make_bind_exit_frame();
    if (setjmp(dNprimitive_frame_destination(T0))) {
      T2 = dNprimitive_frame_return_value(T0);
      goto L0;
    T1 = I(42);
    dNprimitive_nlx(T0, T1);

The only gotcha (other than how setjmp works in C) is that the emission engine knows that there’s no point in generating code for the stuff that follows an <exit> node; it’s a primitive form of dead code elimination. So that’s why the t2 := ^13 and <end-exit-block> nodes are not emitted.

The call to dNprimitive_nlx unwinds all <unwind-protect> frames on the way back to the entry state marked by T0. Eventually, (unless some cleanup calls another exit procedure) it will longjmp to the site of the setjmp. The second argument to dNprimitive_nlx is shoved into the dNprimitive_frame_return_value of the entry state.

On the other hand, if we omit the call to the exit procedure (or if there’s some control flow path which falls through, or if it isn’t inlined, as it was above), the generated code is:

block (exit) 13 end; =>
  D L1502I () {
    D T0;
    D T1;

    T0 = dNprimitive_make_bind_exit_frame();
    if (setjmp(dNprimitive_frame_destination(T0))) {
      T1 = dNprimitive_frame_return_value(T0);
      goto L0;
    T1 = I(13);
    /* invalidate T0 */

Note that the call just falls through from the assignment to T1 to the return; no jump need take place.

The comment about invalidating reflects something I think we should do, but haven’t done yet, which is ensure that the exit procedure is bashed when we leave the block. Bashing a single slot should be sufficient.


Now, let’s consider the DFM code for an unwind-protect:

block () xxx() cleanup yyy() end; =>
  [UNWIND-PROTECT entry-state: t0 body: L1 cleanup: L2 next: L0]
  t1 := ^xxx
  t2 := [CALLx t1()]
  end-protected-block entry-state: t0
  return t2
  t3 := ^yyy
  [CALLx t3()]
  end-cleanup-block entry-state: t0

I think this code is pretty straight-forward, at least in terms of the data flow graph. Note that t2 is live in the code outside the block statement.

block () xxx() cleanup yyy() end; =>
  D L2437I () {
    D T0;
    D T1;
    D T2;
    D T3;

    T0 = dNprimitive_make_unwind_protect_frame();
    if (setjmp(dNprimitive_frame_destination(T0)))
      goto L2;
    T1 = dNxxx;
    T2 = CALL0(T1);
    T3 = dNyyy;

The dNprimitive_continue_unwind just returns in this case. If the cleanup clause were invoked by an exit procedure, it would have set a flag in the frame indicating that it continues non-local-exiting. The important thing to see is that the decision about whether to fall through from the cleanup clause into the code outside the block is made by dNprimitive_continue_unwind, based on dynamic information.

Final notes

Finally, note that a block with both an exit procedure (bind-exit) and a cleanup clause (unwind-protect) is simply a bind-exit wrapped around an unwind-protect.


Lots of optimizations can be done. Off the top of my head:

  • Code following an <exit> is dead; it should be dead-code eliminated in the DFM.

  • If an <exit> is inlined and there are no <unwind-protect> nodes between it and the <bind-exit>, it can be turned into a control transfer.

  • If there are no <exit> nodes for a given <entry-state>, the <bind-exit> node can be removed.

An invalid optimization that had been suggested was to merge nested <unwind-protect> nodes without intervening <bind-exit> nodes with a test in the merged cleanup to determine whether the inner cleanup is still active. This isn’t valid because then the inner cleanup is no longer protected by the outer cleanup.

DFM local assignment

We really want the DFM to be a single assignment form. That is, all temporaries should be defined and then never mutated. We want this because it makes many optimizations (common sub-expression elimination, inlining, etc) significantly easier. See the usual set of SSA papers for details; I can dig up references.

On the other hand, Dylan has assignment to locals, and we model locals with temporaries. Since the DFM doesn’t have cycles (loops), we could replace assignments to variables which aren’t closed over with new temporaries, in the same way as SSA code is usually generated. But all the interesting cases in Dylan are when assigned variables are closed over, especially because they’re assigned to in loop bodies.

Instead, based on Keith’s suggestion, I map our Dylan-esque DFM into one that matches how ML, at the language level, with references (mutable variables): all temporaries which are assigned to are replaced with temporaries referring to boxed values.

The current approach:

I introduced three primitives:

make-box t => box             // create a box, containing t
get-box-value box => t        // return the value inside the box
set-box-value! box t => t     // set the value inside the box

There is a new compiler pass (eliminate-assignments) which traverses a DFM graph and does the rewriting.

Here’s an example of what happens:

begin let a = 13; a := 42; a end; => // before
  t0 := ^13
  t1 := ^42
  @a := t1
  return t0

begin let a = 13; a := 42; a end; => // after
  t0 := ^13
  t1 := [PRIMOP primitive-make-box(t0)]
  t2 := ^42
  [PRIMOP primitive-set-box-value!(t1, t2)]
  t3 := [PRIMOP primitive-get-box-value(t1)] // tail call
  return t3

The eliminate-assignments pass should happen before any of the interesting optimizations, and should never need to be done twice on the same piece of code.

What remains to be done:

We probably want to turn these primitives into DFM computations before trying to do any optimizations on them.

make-box currently allocates the boxed cell in the heap. It should really allocate the cell either a closure or stack frame, depending on whether the box has dynamic extent. If the temporary the box is bound to (t1 in the example above) is only used as with get-box-value and set-box-value!, then we know that the box has the same extent as that temporary. I’m don’t think that all optimizations will preserve that property, but it will probably be maintained most of the time.

When we have temporaries which aren’t closed over, most of the time we should be able to do SSA-like elimination of assignments, rewriting them by introducing new temporaries. For example, assignment inside a conditional can produce something like this

begin let a = 1; if (p?) a := 2 else end; a end; =>
  t2 := ^1
  t8 := [PRIMOP primitive-make-box(t2)]
  t9 := ^p?
  if (t9) goto L1 else goto L2
  t13 := ^2
  t11 := [PRIMOP primitive-set-box-value!(t8, t13)]
  [MERGE t11 t14]
  t10 := [PRIMOP primitive-get-box-value(t8)] // tail call
  return t10
  t14 := ^&#f
  goto L0

but that should be easy to turn into

t1 := ^p?
if (t1) goto L1 else goto L2
t2 := ^2
t4 := [MERGE t2 t3]
return t4
t3 := ^1
goto L0

This sort of optimization, in the absence of cycles, is pretty easy. It may be more work making it happen for loops built up from tail calls, but still not as bad as SSA conversion in general.

DFM multiple values

To represent multiple values, there’s a new temporary class in the DFM, <multiple-value-temporary>. Multiple values temporaries are not interchangeable with other temporaries; maybe we should introduce a <simple-temporary> class for non-multiple-value temporaries, but we can do that later. In the debugging print code, MV temporaries print with a * in front of them.

A multiple value temporary is the result of any computation which can produce multiple values, notably a call.

In order to produce efficient code, we have imposed the requirement that at most one MV temporary is live at a time (per thread). This allows us to allocate space for all MV temporaries ahead of time, as part of the calling convention, in the multiple value area. It is generally best to think of the multiple value area, which is used to pass multiple values across calls, as a single multiple valued register, which we allocate to the live MV temporary.

When there really is more than one live MV temporary, we must spill and unspill uses. One of the important optimizations is to reduce these spills when the number of values in a MV temporary is known, by extracting them into normal temporaries and repackaging them as an MV temporary when needed as one.

A multiple value temporary has slots which describe the number of required values and whether there are rest values. Types need to be incorporated here, just as with other temporaries. There’s also a slot for a normal temporary, which is used when spilling the multiple value temporary.

To manipulate multiple values, there are five new computation classes:


super: <computation> slots: fixed-values, rest-value

Creates a <multiple-value-temporary> from a set of single value temporaries. For now, a <values> node comes from a converter for the function macro values; in the future, there should be only one <values> node created directly, and the rest created by inlining the function values from the Dylan library. (A similar change needs to be made for <apply>.)

values(1, 2, 3) =>
  t0 := ^1
  t1 := ^2
  t2 := ^3
  *t3 := [VALUES t0 t1 t2]
  return *t3


super: <computation> slots: multiple-values, index, rest-vector?

Produces a single-valued temporary from an MV temporary. The index is used to select which multiple value is extracted; the indices are numbered from 0. If rest-vector? is true, a vector of the values from index on is returned, rather than just the index. (Perhaps that should be a different <computation> class.)

These very commonly follow calls, extracting the single value. They should also appear based on optimizations of let bindings.

f(g()) =>
  t0 := ^f
  t1 := ^g
  *t2 := [CALLx t1()]
  t3 := *t2 [0]
  *t4 := [CALLx t0(t3)] // tail call
  return *t4


super: <function-call>

Like an <apply> with no fixed arguments and a MV temporary as the single (last) argument. Constructed from let declarations which bind multiple values. (This could be used for all lets, but I wanted to wait with that until the multiple value optimizations were in place.)

The most important optimization with these nodes is to upgrade the calls to <simple-call> or <apply> with the shape of the MV temporary argument is know. If it’s not known, the simplest code generation strategy is to extract all of the temporary values and transform the call into an <apply>.

begin let (a, b) = f(); g(a, b) end =>
  t3 := ^[XEP lambda 741 [743] (a, b)
    t0 := ^g
    *t1 := [CALLx t0(a, b)] // tail call
    return *t1
  end lambda]
  t0 := ^f
  *t1 := [CALLx t0()]
  *t2 := [MV-CALLx t3(*t1)] // tail call
  return *t2

<multiple-value-spill> <multiple-value-unspill>

super: <temporary-transfer>

These instructions turn an MV temporary into a single-value temporary and vice-versa, for the purpose of maintaining the property that a single MV temporary is live at a time. As much as possible, we should try to avoid these instructions in generated code, which can be done when we know we’re dealing with a fixed number of values.

These computations are only generated by the mandatory compiler pass spill-multiple-values, which should run after all optimizations have happened. (The reason that it should run afterwards is the spill code can defeat other optimizations and other optimizations can get rid of the need to spill.)

block () f() afterwards g() end =>
  t0 := ^f
  *t1 := [CALLx t0()]
  t3 := [MV-SPILL *t1]
  t2 := ^g
  [CALLx t2()]
  *t4 := [MV-UNSPILL t3]
  return *t4

The reason the spill is needed is that the call to g tramples over the multiple value area.

In the C run time, there’s an extra data structure, MV, as follows:

typedef struct _mv {
  int count;
  D   value[VALUES_MAX];
} MV;

There’s one global such thing (Preturn_values), and one per bind-exit or unwind-protect frame, used for the return value that’s being passed around. The ones that live in those frames should probably be shortened to some small number of values (2? 4? 8?) and evacuate to the heap if more multiple values are stored; it’s pretty rare, I expect, for a large number of values to appear in an unwind-protect frame, or to be passed back with an exit procedure.

The C code generated for all of these is pretty stupid right now, calling out to primitives in all cases, so I won’t bother to present it. I want to get to the task of optimizing multiple values soon. I think that a little bit of optimization will go a long way here.

In the native run-time, we’ll pass the first few multiple values and (if there is one) the count in registers. Tony can describe that far better than I can.

define compilation-pass macro

NOTE: this is currently not used at all - it had been dropped before going open source, but in general I (hannes) believe it is a good idea (and plan to revive it), thus I keep the documentation.

I’ve now replaced the old mechanism for specifying compilation passes in the DFM compiler (setting the vector compilation-passes in compile.dylan) with a declarative system, based around a macro, define compilation-pass.

The macro is exported by dfmc-common, so every module should have it. The basic idea is that you put a compilation-pass definition in the same place as you define the main entry point for a compiler-pass; the definition includes things about the pass, such as when its run, how it is called, and if it should cause other passes to run.

First, a simple example:

define compilation-pass eliminate-assignments,
  visit: functions,
  mandatory?: #t,
  before: analyze-calls;

This defines a pass named eliminate-assignments, which runs before analyze-calls is run; it is possible to use arbitrarily many before: options. The mandatory option declares that the pass is part of optimization level 0; that is, it’s always run.

The visit: functions option says that the function is called for every function in the form being compiled. The default is visit: top-level-forms, which corresponds to the previous behavior.

define compilation-pass try-inlining,
  visit: computations,
  optimization: medium,
  after: analyze-calls,
  before: single-value-propagation,
  triggered-by: analyze-calls,
  trigger: analyze-calls;

The visit: computations option says that every computation (in the top-level and all nested lambdas) is passed to the pass’s function. The after: option is like before: in reverse.

The trigger: option runs the named pass if the pass being defined reports that it changed anything. If the triggered pass has already run, then it is queued to run again; if the triggered pass is disabled or of a higher optimization level than currently being used, it’s not run. Triggered-by: is trigger: in reverse.

A pass function reports that it changed something by returning any non-false value.

Full catalog of options:

visit: What things to pass to the pass’s function:

top-level-forms Just the top-level function. functions Every function. computations Every computation in every function.

optimization: What level of optimization to run this pass for?

(Choices: mandatory, low, medium, high.)

mandatory?: Always run this pass; overrides optimization:.

before: Run this pass before the named one. after: Run this pass after the named one.

trigger: If this pass changed something, run the named pass. triggered-by: If the named pass changes something, run this pass.

print-before?: Print the DFM code before calling the pass. print-after?: Print the DFM code after the pass is done. print?: Same as print-before?: #t and print-after?: #t.

check-before?: Call ensure-invariants before calling the pass. check-after?: Call ensure-invariants after the pass is done. check?: Same as check-before?: #t and check-after?: #t.

back-end: Turn pass on for the named back end. (Default: all) exclude-back-end: Turn pass off for the named back end. (Default: none.)

disabled?: Turn pass off; overrides everything else.

Convenience functions:

trace-pass(pass-name) untrace-pass(pass-name)

Turns on (or off) printing and checking (both before and after) for the pass.


Calls untrace-pass for all traced passes.

Global state:

The thread-variable *back-end* is used with the options back-end: and exclude-back-end:.

The thread-variable *trace-compilation-passes* will print a message about each pass as it runs, and report when one pass triggers another.