Oscar Forner
$(whoami) Projects Resume

ARM C Compiler (ACC) II


I am working on a pet project to create a C compiler for the ARM architecture. You can find more information about this topic in my previous post ARM C Compiler (ACC) - Basic Compiler I.

The source code of this project can be found in GitHub.

What is the current state of the project?

Currently, I have implemented a very basic compiler, this version is available in GitHub as v0.2. Basic compiler able to handle a single file with a main function (without parameters) and if/else statements with simple boolean expressions and return statements of a positive integer.

What has been added or modified since the last post?

The difference between both versions can be found in the following link diff v0.1 v0.2.

Unit tests

In the previous version only unit tests were available for the Lexer, but in this new version some unit tests for the Lexer have been added and unit tests for the Grammar have been created. In total, there are 27 (26 new) unit tests for Lexer and 12 unit tests for Grammar.

Lexer and Tokens

There are new Tokens for if, else and boolean operators. Lexer now supports all these new tokens and it has a new feature (a stack) that allows the Grammar to give a Token back to Lexer. That is useful when you are reading a boolean expression, but you do not know if it will be a binary or unary expression. Then in case you try to check if it is a binary expression and it is not, you give back that token to the Lexer and try with the unary expression. Moreover, the Lexer now receives a buffer with the content of the file loaded instead of a file. This is to make it easier to create unit tests.

void init_lexer(lexer * l, char * code)
	l->f = code;
	l->stack = NULL;
	l->count = 0;

void destroy_lexer(lexer * l)
	stack_base * tmp = NULL;
	stack_base * s = l->stack;
	if (s != NULL)
		tmp = s;
		s = s->next;

void free_stack_base(stack_base * s)

void push_back(lexer * l, token_base * t)
	stack_base * s = (stack_base *) malloc(sizeof(stack_base));
	s->token = t;
	s->next = l->stack;
	l->stack = s;

char get_char(lexer * l)
	return l->f[l->count++];

void push_back_chars(lexer * l, size_t amount)
	if (l->count >= amount)
		l->count -= amount;
		fprintf(stderr, "Error moving back in the buffer\n");

void push_back_one_char(lexer * l)
	push_back_chars(l, 1);

struct token_base * next(lexer * l)
	char buffer[512];
	char * buff_copy = NULL;
	int pos = 0;
	size_t state = 0;
	char tmp;
	void * result = NULL;
	stack_base * stack = NULL;

	if (l->stack != NULL)
		stack_base * stack = l->stack;
		l->stack = l->stack->next;
		result = stack->token;
		stack->token = NULL;
		return result;

Grammar and AST nodes

The most important features added to the AST is the addition of node_if, node_boolean_operator and enum boolean_operator_type. In addition to this, now the base of the AST holds a pointer to the next AST node. That is to hold the whole information contained in the body of a function or an if statement.

// Boolean operators
enum boolean_operator_type {

typedef struct node_if
	ast_base base;
	ast_base * expression;
	ast_base * i_body;
	ast_base * e_body;
} node_if;

typedef struct node_boolean_operator
	ast_base base;
	ast_base * first;
	ast_base * second;
	enum boolean_operator_type oper;
} node_boolean_operator;

 * Init functions for the AST nodes
void init_ast_base(ast_base * base, enum ast_type type, ast_base * next);
void init_ast_base_single(ast_base * base, enum ast_type type);
void init_node_id(node_id * node, char * value);
void init_node_int(node_int * node, int value);
void init_node_function(node_function * node, char * name,
			ast_base * entry_point);
void init_node_return(node_return * node, ast_base * value);
void init_node_if(node_if * node, ast_base * expression, ast_base * i_body,
		  ast_base * e_body);
void init_node_boolean_operator(node_boolean_operator * node,
				enum boolean_operator_type type,
ast_base * first, ast_base * second);

Regarding the Grammar, the method read_function_body has been refactored into the method read_body to be able to re-use it to read the body of the if and else statements. Another interesting piece of code is the method read_boolean_expression, it allows to build a valid AST for a complex boolean expression such as 1 <= 2 && 4 == 4.

 * Read functions to build AST parts
ast_base * read_function_ast_node(grammar * g);
ast_base * read_body(grammar * g);
ast_base * read_return_expression(grammar * g);
ast_base * read_if_statement(grammar * g);
ast_base * read_boolean_expression(grammar * g);
ast_base * read_single_boolean_expression(grammar * g, ast_base * r,
					  int * op_found,
					  enum boolean_operator_type op);
ast_base * read_boolean_binary_expression(grammar * g);
ast_base * read_boolean_unary_expression(grammar * g);

ast_base * read_boolean_expression(grammar * g)
	ast_base * root = NULL;
	token_base * token = NULL;
	enum boolean_operator_type op;
	int op_found = 0;

	token = next(g->l);
	while (token->type != T_CPAR)
		switch (token->type)
			case T_INT_VALUE:
				push_back(g->l, token);
				root = read_single_boolean_expression(g, root, &op_found, op);
			case T_BOOLEAN_OP:
				op = get_boolean_op_value((token_boolean_op *)token);
				op_found = 1;
			case T_OPAR:
				root = read_single_boolean_expression(g, root, &op_found, op);
				fprintf(stderr, "Error reading boolean expression\n");
		token = next(g->l);
	free_token_cpar((token_cpar *)token);
	return root;

Assembly Generator

The Generator of the ARM assembly has new methods to handle all the new AST structures and behaviours. It has some limitations regarding boolean expressions in which I have to do further research. Some pieces of the Generator are the following:

void __generate_code_for_if(generator * g, node_if * ast);
void __generate_code_for_if_expression(generator * g, ast_base * ast,
				       unsigned long long int if_num);
void __generate_code_for_binary_boolean_expression(generator * g,
					node_boolean_operator * op,
					unsigned long long int if_num);
void __generate_code_for_unary_boolean_expression(generator * g,
					node_boolean_operator * op,
					unsigned long long int if_num);
void __generate_code_for_body(generator * g, ast_base * body);

void __generate_code_for_if(generator * g, node_if * ast)
    unsigned long long int if_num = g->if_num;
    // Expression
    __generate_code_for_if_expression(g, ast->expression, if_num);
    // If body
    __generate_code_for_body(g, ast->i_body);
	fprintf(g->f, "if_else_%llu:\n", if_num);
    if (ast->e_body != NULL)
        // Else body
        __generate_code_for_body(g, ast->e_body);

Example of the current functionality

The code to be compiled into ARM assembly is:

int main()
    if (1 < 2)
	    if (4 > 10)
		return 1;
	    else {
		return 2;
    return 0;

Compile the example with our compiler (ACC):

./bin/acc example.c -o example.s

The assembly generated is:

	.global main
	mov r0, #1
	mov r1, #2
	cmp r0, r1
	bge if_else_0
	mov r0, #4
	mov r1, #10
	cmp r0, r1
	ble if_else_1
	mov r0, #1
	bx lr
	mov r0, #2
	bx lr
	mov r0, #0
	bx lr

Use GCC to translate that assembly into a executable binary:

gcc example.s -o example

Execute and check the result:

$ ./example
$ echo $?


The next step will be to actually be able to generate any possible boolean expression. Currently, the AST can recognise complex boolean expressions, but the Generator is not able to handle them. I have to study and research more about this topic in the ARM architecture. After that, I plan on adding variables (integers).