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I dedicate this book to some of the people who have inspired me. My mother and father, Florence and Charles William Morgan, taught me the concept of work. Jordan Baruch introduced me to the wonders of Computer Research. Louis Pitt, Jr., and Bill Clough have been instrumental in helping me understand life and the spirit. My wife, Leigh Morgan, has taught me that there is more than computers and books—there is also life.

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Building compilers has been a challenging activity since the advent of digital computers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At that time, implementing the concept of automatic translation from a form familiar to mathematicians into computer instructions was a difficult task. One needed to figure out how to translate arithmetic expressions into instructions, how to store data in memory, and how to choose instructions to build procedures and functions. During the late 1950s and 1960s these processes were automated to the extent that simple compilers could be written by most computer science professionals. In fact, the concept of “small languages” with corresponding translators is fundamental in the UNIX community.

From the beginning, there was a need for translators that generated efficient code: The translator must use the computer productively. Originally this constraint was due to computers’ small memories and slow speed of execution. During each generation of hardware, new architectural ideas have been added. At each stage the compilers have also needed to be improved to use these new machines more effectively. Curiously, pundits keep predicting that less efficient and less expensive translators will do the job. They argue that as machines keep getting faster and memory keeps expanding, one no longer needs an optimizing compiler. Unfortunately, people who buy bigger and faster machines want to use the proportionate increase in size and speed to handle bigger or more complex problems, so we still have the need for optimizing compilers. In fact, we have an increased need for these compilers because the performance of the newer architectures is sensitive to the quality of the generated code. Small changes in the order and choice of the instructions can have much larger effects on machine performance than similar choices made with the complex instruction set computing (CISC) machines of the 1970s and 1980s.

The interplay between computer architecture and compiler performance has been legitimized with the development of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures. Compilers and computer architecture have a mutually dependent relationship that shares the effort to build fast applications. To this end, hardware has been simplified by exposing some of the details of hardware operation, such as simple load-store instruction sets and instruction scheduling. The compiler is required to deal with these newly exposed details and provide faster execution than possible on CISC processors.

This book describes one design for the optimization and code-generation phases of such a compiler. Many compiler books are available for describing the analysis of programming languages. They emphasize the processes of lexical analysis, parsing, and semantic analysis. Several books are also available for describing compilation processes for vector and parallel processors. This book describes the compilation of efficient programs for a single superscalar RISC processor, including the ordering and structure of algorithms and efficient data structures.

The book is presented as a high-level design document. There are two reasons for this. Initially, I attempted to write a book that presented all possible alternatives so that the reader could make his or her own choices of methods to use. This was too bulky, as the projected size of the volume was several thousand pages—much too large for practical purposes. There are a large number of different algorithms and structures in an optimizing compiler. The choices are interconnected, so an encyclopedic approach to optimizing compilers would not address some of the most difficult problems.

Second, I want to encourage this form of design for large software processes. The government uses a three-level documentation system for describing software projects: The A-level documents are overview documents that describe a project as a whole and list its individual pieces. B-level documents describe the operation of each component in sufficient detail that the reader can understand what each component does and how it does it, whereas the C-level documents are low-level descriptions of each detail.

As a developer I found this structure burdensome because it degenerated into a bureaucratic device involving large amounts of paper and little content. However, the basic idea is sound. This book will describe the optimization and code-generation components of a compiler in sufficient detail that the reader can implement these components if he or she sees fit. Since I will be describing one method for each of the components, the interaction between components can be examined in detail so that all of the design and implementation issues are clear.

Each chapter will include a section describing other possible implementation techniques. This section will include bibliographic information so that the interested reader can find these other techniques.

Philosophy for Choosing Compiler Techniques

Before starting the book, I want to describe my design philosophy. When I first started writing compilers (about 1964), I noticed that much research and development work had been described in the literature. Although each of these projects is based on differing assumptions and needs, the availability of this information makes it easier for those who follow to use previous ideas without reinventing them. I therefore design by observing the literature and other implementations and choosing techniques that meet my needs. What I contribute is the choice of technique, the engineering of the technique to fit with other components, and small improvements that I have observed.

One engineering rule of thumb must be added. It is easy to decide that one will use the latest techniques that have been published. This policy is dangerous. There are secondary effects from the choice of any optimization or code-generation technique that are observed only after the technique has been used for some time. Thus I try to avoid techniques that I have not seen implemented at least twice in prototype or production compilers. I will break this rule once or twice when I am sure that the techniques are sound, but no more frequently.

In the course of writing this book, my view of it has evolved. It started out as a recording of already known information. I have designed and built several compilers using this existing technology. As the book progressed, I have learned much about integrating these algorithms. What started out as a concatenation of independent ideas has thus become melded into a more integrated whole. What began as simple description of engineering choices now contains some newer ideas. This is probably the course of any intellectual effort; however, I have found it refreshing and encouraging.

How to Use This Book

This book is designed to be used for three purposes. The first purpose is to describe the structure of an optimizing compiler so that a reader can implement it or a variation (compiler writers always modify a design). The book’s structure reflects this purpose. The initial chapters describe the compilation phases and the interactions among them; later chapters describe the algorithms involved in each compilation phase.

This book can also be used as a textbook on compiler optimization techniques. It takes one example and describes each of the compilation processes using this example. Rather than working small homework problems, students work through alternative examples.

Practically, the largest use for this book will be informing the curious. If you are like me, you pick up books because you want to learn something about the subject. I hope that you will enjoy this book and find what you are looking for. Good reading.

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