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Showing posts from September, 2013

cfront: a J2ObjC Inspiration

Developers new to J2ObjC may find its "Java compiles to Objective-C, which compiles to .o files" approach a little strange, but it's based on precedent: cfront. When C++ was first released, no compilers translated C++ sources directly into object files. Instead, the cfront script translated C++ into temporary C files, and then invoked cc to compile them. cfront took similar options as cc, so most C++ developers used it as if it was a true C++ compiler. The cfront script wrapped around a transpiler, though; it was a script very similar to combining the j2objc and j2objcc scripts in J2ObjC.
One of cfront's innovations was name mangling, where C++ type information was embedded into C names. J2ObjC also uses name mangling (described here) to support features like packages and Java's method overloading semantics that Objective-C doesn't directly support. For example, the JRE has both java.util.Date and java.sql.Date classes; since C names are all global in scope,…