[stella] compiler?

Subject: [stella] compiler?
From: Ben Larson <wazzapfool@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 10:33:36 -0700 (PDT)
Has anyone ever considered making a compiler that
generates Atari 2600 code?  I know it sounds like a
pretty farfetched idea, but I was thinking maybe
something scaled down at first.  Obviously creating a
compiler that would be able to abstract all the nasty
details of making a really graphically-intense game
(like Pitfall for instance) would be near-impossible. 
That's not what I had in mind.  What I had in mind was
something that would just let you do console
text-based stuff a la old DOS text-based programs, or
that 2600 game 'Dark Mage'.

I already have a simple C-esque scripting language I
wrote with some other guy for a class in college,
which I was thinking might be a starting point.  The
implementation was done in C++ and is completely
object-oriented (the implementation, not the language
we wrote).  Right now it's interpreted, but it would
be easy (knock on wood) to convert it into a compiler
because of the object oriented structure.  All that
would need to be done would be to write a new 'virtual
machine' class (one of the 3 C++ classes that
comprises it) which would take the pseudo-instructions
given to it from the parser and generate 6502 assembly
language code instead.

Anyway the language itself is kinda cool - supports
integer variables and arrays, string constants, as
well as 'for' and 'while' loops, procedures, (pseduo)
local variables, arbitrarily complex conditional
statements, order-of-operations, etc.  I (or someone
else) would just need to come up with a 'console
kernel' to retrive text information from RAM and
display the characters on-screen, and I think the
whole thing might be pretty feasable.  Obviously the
limited processing power of the 2600 might be a
problem, but I suppose if all of a given program's
calculations couldn't be done in one screen blank,
then it could just be spread over multiple screen
blanks...maybe.  The compiler would likely have to
count cycles when generating the code, and always
assume worst-case scenario in order to determine
whether code would fit into 1 screen blank.  If not,
it could generate the appropriate subroutine calls to
draw the screen, and then go on generating code.

Anyway just a thought, I don't know if anyone would be
interested in such a thing, since its usefulness, like
I said, would probably be limited to fairly static
(text-based) stuff.


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