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"... This paper introduces a copying garbage collection algorithm which is able to compact most of the accessible storage in the heap without having an explicitly defined set of pointers that contain the roots of all accessible storage. Using "hints " found in the processor’s registers and stac ..."
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This paper introduces a copying garbage collection algorithm which is able to compact most of the accessible storage in the heap without having an explicitly defined set of pointers that contain the roots of all accessible storage. Using "hints " found in the processor’s registers and stack, the algorithm is able to divide heap allocated objects into two groups: those that might be referenced by a pointer in the stack or registers, and those that are not. The objects which might be referenced are left in place, and the other objects are copied into a more compact representation. A Lisp compiler and runtime system which uses such a collector need not have complete control of the processor in order to force a certain discipline on the stack and registers. A Scheme implementation has been done for the Digital WRL Titan processor which uses a garbage collector based on this "mostly copying " algorithm. Like other languages for the Titan, it uses the Mahler intermediate language as its target. This simplifies the compiler and allows it to take advantage of the significant machine dependent optimizations provided by Mahler. The common intermediate language also simplifies call-outs from Scheme programs to functions written in other languages and call-backs from functions in other languages. Measurements of the Scheme implementation show that the algorithm is efficient, as little unneeded storage is retained and only a very small fraction of the heap is left in place. Simple pointer manipulation protocols also mean that compiler support is not needed in order to correctly handle pointers. Thus it is reasonable to provide garbage collected storage in languages such as C. A collector written in C which uses this algorithm is included in the Appendix. i A further problem is the occasional difficulty of determining exactly what Lists are not garbage at any given stage; if the programmer has been using any nonstandard techniques or keeping any pointer values in unusual places, chances are good that the garbage collector will go awry. Knuth, Volume I 1.