Re: Speedy compilers

Janusz Szpilewski <>
15 Nov 1998 13:34:58 -0500

          From comp.compilers

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From: Janusz Szpilewski <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 15 Nov 1998 13:34:58 -0500
Organization: Alcatel Polska
References: 98-11-047
Keywords: performance

> Obvious though it may seem, the reason that most
> compilers these days are slow is that compile speed isn't a big
> priority for most compiler developers, who are more worried about code
> quality. -John]

Faster processors and bigger memory made it possible to extend compilers
with sophisticated code optimization routines. It was not possible in
the old days as many of optimization algorithms need a lot of memory and
computing power.

Due to the optimization improvements the sentence "If you want a good
program write it in assembler" is not true anymore. Advanced code
generation and optimization help with creating very efficient code.
Furthermore, in such domains as optimal registers usage mathematical
algorithms can make a much better choice than a human being.

So programmers finally have a comfort of concentrating on top level
aspects of their code quality like readability and code reuse instead of
solving machine based problems.

On the other hand it all results in low compile speed. It is significant
as the software projects grew in size and compiling a large project may
take up to several hours. It is a very annoying thing while integrating
a project or fixing bugs. Incremental compiling and linking help with it
a little, but in many cases compile speed is a factor many programmers
are very interested in...

There are some fast compilers, usually those of the Java language.
Visual J++ is much faster then Visual C++. I think it is mainly because
of the smaller complexity of Java.

So compile speed rest a very important factor and compiler designers
should treat it so seriously...

Janusz Szpilewski
[The original Fortran compiler did extensive optimization (even by
current standards) and was slow. They added a switch to skip most of
the optimization and compile faster, and to their surprise everyone
used it all the time, since even then most compiles were for
development and debugging, not for production. Perhaps it's time to
relearn this 40 year old lesson. -John]

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