Did No One Count?

This is embarrassing, although I can explain, really officer. I wasn’t drinking, it just looked that way.

I put up a Five Levels of Code Generation and it contained these bullet points:

  • Altering code for the purpose of machines
    The path from human readable source code to machine language
  • DSL (Domain Specific Language)
    Changing human instructions of intent, generally into human readable source code
  • File Code Generation
    Creating human readable source code files from small metadata, or sometimes, altering those files
  • Application code generation or architecture expression
    Creating entire systems from a significant body of metadata

See the problem?

Now, if you read the post, you might see what I intended. You might realize that I was in the left turn lane, realized I needed something at the drugstore on the right, didn’t realize the rental car needed to have its lights turned on (mine doesn’t) on a completely empty road at midnight in a not-great neighborhood in Dallas. Really, officer, I haven’t been drinking, I’m just an idiot.

There’s five because I make a split in the first item: That was partially because that post was inspired by confusion regarding what RyuJIT means to the future of .NET. (It actually means, and only means, that your programs will run better/faster in some scenarios).

The code you write becomes something, and then it becomes native code. That “something” for us has been IL, but might be a different representation. One reason for the distinction is that there are entirely separate teams that think about different kinds of problems working on compilers and native code generation. IL is created by a compiler that specializes in parsing, symbol resolution and widely applicable optimization. Native code is created in a manner specific to the machine where it will be run. In the big picture, this has been true since .NET was released and it’s a great design.

I think language compilation and native code creation are two distinct steps. One is all about capturing the expressive code you write, and the other is all about making a device work based on its individual operating system APIs.

But I might be wrong. I might be wrong because the increasing diversity in our environments means implications of native code API’s on the libraries you use (PCL). I might be wrong because languages like JavaScript don’t use IL (although minification is not entirely different). I might be wrong because it’s only the perspective of the coder that matters, and the coder rarely cares. I might be wrong because I’m too enamored with the amazing things like multi-core background JIT and MPGO (you can see more in the Changes to the .NET Framework module of my What’s New in .NET 4.5 Pluralsight course).

The taxonomy of code generation will shape the upcoming discussions Roslyn will inspire about metaprogramming. Metaprogramming encompasses only the DSL/expansion, file, and architecture levels.

You might be rolling your eyes like the officer handing me back my license in Dallas. Yes, officer. You’re absolutely right. If I titled the post “Five Levels of Code Generation” I should have had FIVE bullet points.

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