Subject: Re: Please help!! From: Erik Naggum <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 1999/02/07 Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <email@example.com> * Steve Gonedes <firstname.lastname@example.org> | Anyway, is the following function candidate for tail-call-elimination? | I just don't see how it is possible - even if the compiler knows no | redefinition is going to occur. | | (defun make-nums (count &optional (result ())) | (cond ((zerop count) result) | (t (make-nums (1- count) (cons count result))))) here's the last function call compiled with tail call merging. leave movl ebx,[esi+50] ; make-nums jmp *[edi+39] ; tramp-two and here it is without: movl ebx,[esi+50] ; make-nums call *[edi+39] ; tramp-two leave ret (yeah, the CPU is an Intel Pentium. sorry about that, but at least it may be well known.) to understand this, consider that a function call pushes the instruction pointer on the stack, _jumps_ to the new code, which sets up a stack frame with an ENTER instruction, does its work, performs LEAVE to unwind the stack, and finally returns to the caller with a RET instruction which pops the return address from the stack, and _jumps_ to it. consider the normal call case first: every call is made within the stack frame set up at each call, so every call consumes a fairly large amount of space, typically 50 to 100 bytes. then all it does when it returns is unwind the stack frame and return to the its caller, which does the same as many times as the function has called itself. pretty boring. (we can all be thankful that CPU's aren't self-aware or they'd just revolt.) instead of making a new function call, we can unwind the stack frame if there is nothing on it that we need (even Intel has half a register left that can be used to pass arguments), and then call the function with our caller's return address still on the stack. all we keep around is the address of our caller. everything else is still set up at every call, but it happens over and over in the _same_ area of memory instead of new memory at every call. some people believe that a tail call is as efficient as a loop, but they either don't know their CPU very well (typical of some people's arrogance towards their tools), and/or they believe in magic or propaganda, neither of which are proven reliable sources of technical information. it is generally unwise to assume that you can use an existing stack frame when entering a function anew, even the _same_ function. to do that reliably, you use a looping construct that has control over the variable assignment and works _inside_ the stack frame and the known function body. in the event that the compiler actually transforms a self-recursive tail call into a loop, things turn a bit different, since we're no longer calling the function via the variable's value (in Scheme). to make such a transformation, one would have to know that no side effects are made during the loop, as you have pointed out. so generally, you can't, and the special cases where you can are probably a lot easier done with a real loop, anyway, despite the attraction of syntactic recursion. #:Erik -- Y2K conversion simplified: Januark, Februark, March, April, Mak, June, Julk, August, September, October, November, December.