Macros should be easier to implement once the compiler is able to compile itself, because this way the compiler and the compiled macro have the same internal representation of data structures, so passing arguments between the two shouldn't be too hard.
There are several uses of macros in the compiler, unfortunately. In particular the 'def macro is too much of a convenience. So in order for the compiler to easily compile itself, it first has to implement macros. Chicken, meet egg.
Ah heck, maybe I should just use 'eval now and implement a compiled 'eval interpreter later that can interpret code and yet allow interpreted code to call compiled code and vice versa.
In fact I already have a bit of a sketch for this (which is necessary if we want to allow compiled programs to use 'eval). Basically put interpreted '(fn ...) forms into a 'interpreted-fn annotated type together with surrounding environment, add an entry to the 'calls* table (via defcall, say) for 'interpreted-fn to, say, a $$interpreted-fn-apply function which binds the parameters into an environment table and calls the 'eval interpreter.
Of course this requires some changes in the base system: we need at the very least a %symeval primitive which when given a symbol will give its global binding, a %symset primitive which will modify a symbol's global binding, and obviously we need a link from the symbol to the GLOBAL() array (and dynamically create new containers for created symbols - if it's not in the GLOBAL() array then the compiled code would never read that global anyway, only the interpreted code ever will).
The rest of the interpreter is just a standard scheme interpreter, the only real support we need is to be able to call compiled-from-interpreted and interpreted-from-compiled, and the reading and binding of global symbols, including those that aren't in the GLOBAL table.
Ouch, my head hurts. And sacado's the one doing the Unicode strings. LOL
For the global vars problem, a solution could be to associate top level values directly with the symbol, this way a symbol would consist of three values: its string representation, its global value (initially a special 'unbound value') and a property list.
The current style has an optimization where all globals are simply referenced directly from an array in O(1). I'd rather that symbols point to entries in this array, because symbol-as-global-variable lookups are expected to be completely nonexistent if 'eval isn't involved in the program anyway (who uses 'eval in a language with 'read?). Only newly created symbols must have allocated variable values, and only for the benefit of 'eval'ed code - we can already know the global variables in the compiled code, because the compiler need that info anyway.
long type; /*T_SYM*/
/*compiler generated only if eval is used*/
obj sym; symbol* sympt;
sym = SYM2OBJ("globalvar0");
sympt = (symbol*) sym;
sympt->binding = &GLOBAL(0);
sym = SYM2OBJ("globalvar1");
sympt = (symbol*) sym;
sympt->binding = &GLOBAL(1);
This way the current performance is retained (global variable lookups are O(1)).
I don't know how much this solution will be once support for a dynamic load (e.g. from the REPL) will have to be implemented, because you'll have to keep an index of the last global variables created across different compilation sessions. With threads it gets even more complicated (mutex on the index?). With symbols it would be simpler to implement a dynamic load or definition of a global var from the REPL. The price paid is a slightly slower access to global variables, because 2 references to memory are necessary for every refrence to a global var. Global variables lookups are still O(1) though, e.g: sym->binding for read access and sym->binding = value for write access.
> the last global variables created across different compilation sessions
I don't understand this part. I was proposing that 'eval would be an interpreter, not a compiler. My intentions was that compiled code would be statically generated (the way it's done now), so 'eval cannot possibly compile code. It would be a compiled interpreter of Arc. arc2c is a static compiler, so 'eval won't add ever add compiled code; the best it can do is create a 'interpreted-fn object that contains an interpreted function's code (as a list) and the enclosing interpreted environment
So a dynamic load would just interpret the expressions in the file being loaded:
(w/infile s f
(whilet e (read s)
'eval would be able to access the global variable table indirectly via the symbols and %symeval/%symset.
Basically, 'eval would be compiled to something like this:
(fn (e (o env nil))
(if (isa e 'symbol)
(if env (lookup-environment env e)
Also: if the compiled code doesn't reference it, it won't be in the GLOBAL() array. The reason is simple: the compiled code won't reference it, ever. If 'globalvar isn't in GLOBAL(), then it does not exist in the compiled code. So it doesn't matter that it's not in the GLOBAL() array - the compiled code never referenced that global, so it won't ever use an index into the GLOBAL() array to refer to it. The interpreted code might, but that's why we have an indirect reference connected to the symeval.
Also, when I say O(1), I mean O(1) with the number one, as in only one layer of indirection (an index within a table). If global bindings are kept with the symbol only, then all global accesses - even precompiled ones - need (1) to find the symbol and (2) get the binding, for a total of O(2).
In other words: 'compile-file compiles, but it creates a new executable which is never connected to the process that ran 'compile-file. 'eval just interprets, and if the interpreted code mutates a global of the program, then that global gets mutated for real, in the program (what are you doing using 'eval on untrusted coe anyway). But if the interpreted code mutates a global that is never used in the program, it just creates a new global variable, one which is never referenced by the program (by definition, because the program never used it).