A Generator for Production Quality Compilers

Hanspeter Mössenböck
ETH Zurich
Institute for Computer Systems
CH-8092 Zurich


This paper presents a compiler description language and its implementation Coco/R (Compiler Compiler for Recursive Descent). Coco/R reads an attributed EBNF grammar of a language and translates it into a recursive descent parser and a scanner for that language. The programmer has to supply a main program that calls the parser and semantic modules that are called from within the parser. Coco/R evolved from two predecessors: the scanner generator Alex [Möss86] and the parser generator Coco [ReMö89]. Their input languages were merged and simplified due to our experiences with these tools over several years (a similar tool with a slightly different motivation also emerged from Alex and Coco [DoPi90]). Using Coco/R, compilers can be generated that are as efficient as hand-coded and carefully optimized production quality compilers. Almost as important as efficiency is the simplicity and adequacy of the system. Programmers are not willing to use a tool if it does not come in handy to their work, if it uses an arcane notation or a bulk of options and special cases. Coco/R puts simplicity and efficiency over power.

Invited talk at CC'90 (3rd International Workshop on Compiler Compilers), Schwerin, Germany, 1990.

Published in the Proceedings of CC'90, Lecture Notes in Computer Science 477, pp. 42-55, Springer-Verlag, 1990.

You can download the paper in postscript or in compressed postscript.