Continuing a little bit with writing notes on Truffle and Graal, this one is based on my observations in SOMns and changes to its message dispatch mechanism. Specifically, I refactored the main message dispatch chain in SOMns. As in Self and Newspeak, all interactions with objects are message sends. Thus, field access and method invocation is essentially the same. This means that message sending is a key to good performance.
Over the course of the next four weeks, I plan to publish a new post every Tuesday to give a detailed introduction on how to use the Graal compiler and the Truffle framework to build fast languages. And this is the very first post to setup this series. The next posts are going to provide a bit of background on Golo, the language we are experimenting with, then build up the basic interpreter for executing a simple Fibonacci and later a Mandelbrot computation. To round off the series, we will also discuss how to use one of the tools that come with Graal to optimize the performance of an interpreter. But for today, let’s start with the basics.
Back in 2013 when looking for a way to show that my ideas on how to support concurrency in VMs are practical, I started to look into meta-compilation techniques. Truffle and RPython are the two most promising systems to build fast language implementations without having to implement a compiler on my own. While these two approaches have many similarities, from a conceptual perspective, they take two different approaches that can be seen as the opposite ends of a spectrum. So, I thought, it might be worthwhile to investigate them a little closer.