on hoot, on boot — wingolog

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2024-05-16 21:30:04

I realized recently that I haven’t been writing much about the Hoot Scheme-to-WebAssembly compiler. Upon reflection, I have been too conscious of its limitations to give it verbal tribute, preferring to spend each marginal hour fixing bugs and filling in features rather than publicising progress.

In the last month or so, though, Hoot has gotten to a point that pleases me. Not to the point where I would say “accept no substitutes” by any means, but good already for some things, and worth writing about.

The first boot of Hoot was on paper. Christine Lemmer-Webber had asked me, ages ago, what I thought Guile should do about the web. After thinking a bit, I concluded that it would be best to avoid compromises when building an in-browser Guile: if you have to pollute Guile to match what JavaScript offers, you might as well program in JavaScript. JS is cute of course, but Guile is a bit different in some interesting ways, the most important of which is control: delimited continuations, multiple values, tail calls, dynamic binding, threads, and all that. If Guile’s web bootie doesn’t pack all the funk in its trunk, probably it’s just junk.

So I wrote up a plan something to which I attributed the name tailification. In retrospect, this is simply a specific flavor of a continuation-passing-style (CPS) transmutation, late in the compiler pipeline. I’ll elocute more in a future dispatch. I did end up writing the tailification pass back then; I could have continued to target JS, but it was sufficiently annoying and I didn’t prosecute. It sat around unused for a few years, until Christine’s irresistable charisma managed to conjure some resources for Hoot.

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