Challenges and Opportunities in C/C Source-To-Source Compilation (Invited Paper)

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João Bispo
Nuno Miguel Paulino
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The C/C compilation stack (Intermediate Representations (IRs), compilation passes and backends) is encumbered by a steep learning curve, which we believe can be lowered by complementing it with approaches such as source-to-source compilation. Source-to-source compilation is a technology that is widely used and quite mature in certain programming environments, such as JavaScript, but that faces a low adoption rate in others. In the particular case of C and C some of the identified factors include the high complexity of the languages, increased difficulty in building and maintaining C/C parsers, or limitations on using source code as an intermediate representation. Additionally, new technologies such as Multi-Level Intermediate Representation (MLIR) have appeared as potential competitors to source-to-source compilers at this level. In this paper, we present what we have identified as current challenges of source-to-source compilation of C and C , as well as what we consider to be opportunities and possible directions forward. We also present several examples, implemented on top of the Clava source-to-source compiler, that use some of these ideas and techniques to raise the abstraction level of compiler research on complex compiled languages such as C or C . The examples include automatic parallelization of for loops, high-level synthesis optimisation, hardware/software partitioning with run-time decisions, and automatic insertion of inline assembly for fast prototyping of custom instructions. © João Bispo, Nuno Paulino, and Luís Miguel Sousa.