Re: Design of Virtual Machines

Eliot & Linda <>
6 Apr 1997 22:31:36 -0400

          From comp.compilers

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Design of Virtual Machines (Dave) (1997-04-03)
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Re: Design of Virtual Machines (David L Moore) (1997-04-06)
Re: Design of Virtual Machines (Eliot & Linda) (1997-04-06)
Re: Design of Virtual Machines (1997-04-13)
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From: Eliot & Linda <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 6 Apr 1997 22:31:36 -0400
Organization: Compilers Central
References: 97-04-026
Keywords: architecture, design

Dave wrote:
> I am interested in the design of virtual machines, their architecture,
> instructions sets, the context they were uses in, interpreters and so
> on.
> I would greatly appreciate any references to papers/books/web sites
> etc which cover the background and use of VMs.

Smalltalk-80: The Language and its Implementation,
Goldberg and Robson,

Smalltalk-80: Bits of History, Words of Advivce
Krasner, Ed.

both Addison-Wesley, both out of print, in a good CS library.

Also search for papers on the implementation of Smalltalk and Self.
Try as an excellent search engine.

John Levine wrote:
> [I'd suggest translating to Java byte codes and using one of the
> available Java interpreters. That way, as people produce better Java
> runtime implementations you can just use them. I can't think of any
> other VM designs that are getting much implementation attention other
> than the S/38-AS/400 which is a lot harder to find out about. -John]

I beg to differ :). Both Smalltalk and Self virtual machines are
receiving significant implementation attention. In fact, the fastest
Java execution technology (Animorphic's HotSpot for Java) has a
slightly older sibling, HotSpot for Smalltalk.

I'd recommend Squeak, a public domain Smalltalk-80 (see Since it includes a compiler it
will give you a head-start at building a compiler for your own
language. AFAIK, Java does not include a compiler fwk.

I'd also recommend VisualWorks from my own company ParcPlace-Digitalk,
which has 90% academic discount, includes a compiler and has a
parser-generation tool. See
There's also an Australian distributor, MITS, but I don't have a URL

IBM also has a powerful Smalltalk system (VisualAge) which may even be
free for academic institutions. But I don't know if it has an exposed
compiler or parser-generation tools.

If Dave Page's group's language has closures then Smalltalk would be a
much better choice than Java. Smalltalk's tool set is as yet
considerably more mature and robust.
Eliot Miranda, ParcPlace-Digitalk

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