Brainfuck compiler for macOS / OS X

Compile Brainfuck programs to x86-64 Mach-O executables for Mac OS X 10.11 and newer.

Technical Requirements

I use the following:

  • At least LLVM version 7.0.2 (clang-700.1.81), which is Command Line Tools version 7.0.3. I also tested it with LLVM version 8.1.0 (clang-802.0.38) (CLT version 8.3.0) and it works with that too.
  • Mac OS X 10.11.4 (x86_64-apple-darwin15.5.0)
  • GNU Make (I guess version is irrelevant)

My guess is that it will work with older versions too, but you might have to tweak the version number for /usr/lib/libSystem.B.dylib in the Mach-O output. It will only work for OS X 10.9 and newer because of how Apple has deprecated the old LC_UNIXTHREAD load command and replaced it with the new LC_MAIN dynamic loader stuff.

Also tested on macOS 10.12.3 and 10.12.4 (Sierra).

What is Brainfuck?

Brainfuck is an extremely minimalistic, yet Turing-complete, programming language (so-called esoteric programming language). The main idea is to manipulate an array of cells, using simple commands. A cell is one byte, and the array consists of (at least) 30,000 cells.

On start up, each cell is initialised to zero and a cell pointer is set to the first (leftmost) cell. The program is then executed sequentially, command by command, until the last command. Each command consists of one character, and there are eight possible commands for moving the cell pointer, increasing/decreasing the current cell value, I/O of the current cell and a simple loop structure. Non-command characters are just ignored.

Command Action Equivalent C code
> Increment the cell pointer (move it to the right) ++ptr;
< Decrement the cell pointer (move it to the left) --ptr;
+ Increment the value of the current cell ++*ptr;
- Decrement the value of the current cell --*ptr;
. Write the value of the current cell to screen putchar(*ptr);
, Read one byte of input and store the value in the current cell *ptr = getchar();
[ If the cell value is zero, jump to the command following the matching ] command while (*ptr) {
] If the cell value is not zero, jump back to the command after the matching [ }

Example Program

The following Brainfuck code adds 2 and 3

++       set cell 0 to 2
>        move cell pointer to the right
+++        set cell 1 to 3
<        move cell pointer back to cell 0
[        while current cell is greater than 0
  -        decrease cell 0 with 1
  >        move cell pointer to cell 1
  +        increase value of cell 1
  <        move cell pointer back to cell 0
]        end loop

Step by step, this will look something like this:

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   0 |   0 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |         Initial state
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   1 |   0 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   0 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   0 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    >    Increment cell pointer
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   1 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   2 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   3 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   3 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    <    Decrement cell pointer
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   2 |   3 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    [    Current cell is greater than 0 so we enter the loop
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   1 |   3 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    -    Decrement current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   1 |   3 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    >    Increment cell pointer
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   1 |   4 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   1 |   4 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    <    Decrement cell pointer
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   1 |   4 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    ]    Current cell is greater than 0, jump to loop start
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   0 |   4 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    -    Decrement current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   0 |   4 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    >    Increment cell pointer
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   0 |   5 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    +    Increment current cell
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
          ^
         ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   0 |   5 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    <    Decrement cell pointer
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

    0     1     3     4        30k
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
 |   0 |   5 |   0 |   0 |...|   0 |    ]    Current cell is 0, break out of loop
 +-----+-----+-----+-----+~~~+-----+
    ^
   ptr

Compiler Overview

The compiler consists of three parts, namely the parser, the compiler and the Mach-O builder. The program starts

The responsibilities of the parser is to first tokenise the file. This is done by reading the source file character by character and whenever a valid token -- that is, a valid Brainfuck command character -- is encountered, it is inserted into a linked list. After all the tokens are read, the list of tokens (which I call token string in my implementation) is passed to the parse function which does the following:

  • Match [ and ] together (and make sure that all of them matches, otherwise it is a syntax error).
  • Chain succeeding +, -, < and >commands and count them
  • Figure out where it is necessary to do memory stores and loads

After the parser has done its magic to the token string, it is passed to the compiler. The compiler is responsible for converting the parsed token string into x86-64 machine code and writing it to page-sized buffers, allocated on demand. I use buffers that are aligned with pages because it is simple.

The buffers are then finally passed to the Macho-O builder, which essentially writes the Mach-O header to file along with the necessary load commands and finally the compiled code.

Brainfuck to x86-64 assembly

Translating Brainfuck to simple assembly is trivial. The following registers is used for the purposes listed:

Register Width Meaning
al 1 byte Working register, used to increment and decrement cell value
rbp 8 bytes Store the address of the beginning of the data segment (0x1000000000)
dx 2 bytes Represents the current cell pointer. The current cell is retrieved with (rbp+rdx)
rbx 8 bytes Holds the base stack pointer, because of calling convention (aka not used)
rsi 8 bytes Used for write() and read() syscalls
rdi 8 bytes Used for write() and read() syscalls

Then translating Brainfuck commands into assembly is just a matter of mapping commands to opcodes and operands.

Command GNU Assembly (AT&T)
< decw %dx
> incw %dx
+ incb (%rbp, %rdx)
- incb (%rbp, %rdx)
[ movb (%rbp, %rdx), %al; cmpb $0, %al; je <4-byte offset>
] jmp <4-byte offset>
. movq $4, %rax; movq $1, %rdi; leaq (%rbp,%rdx), %rsi; pushq %rdx; movq $1, %rdx; syscall; popq %rdx
, movq $3, %rax; movq $0, %rdi; leaq (%rbp,%rdx), %rsi; pushq %rdx; movq $1, %rdx; syscall; popq %rdx

Optimisations

I am currently in the process of attempting to make some optimisations in order to reduce the size of the executable. Currently, I have chained together + and - in order to reduce number of loads and stores, in addition to avoiding multiple incb or decb (instead I do addb and subb). I have also chained together succeeding '<' and '>' and use subw and addw to change the cell pointer.

If I get time, I will also look into the possibility for skipping so-called comment loops by checking if a cell has to be zero.

One plan I do have is to store output in a buffer and flush on newline, and add the possibility to force flush on ever call to write() as an option to the compiler. I suspect that this will greatly improve the performance of programs that do extensive writing.

Creating a valid Mach-O executable

I had a hard time figuring out why my initial attempts at creating a valid Mach-O file did not work. The command line tools are extremely handy, but they do only minimal evaluation. When I first started, I was not familiar with the Mach-O format, only with ELF. I started out by making a Mach-O parser and reading this link about it. Basically, it is a very simple format with a Mach header, a series of variable sized load commands and then followed by data.

Mach-O memory layout

Reading Mach-O files was fairly simple. Creating them, on the other hand, was not. I came across a blogpost about making minimal 64-bit executable, but I could not make it to work. After digging for a long time, I finally came across a stackoverflow post saying that the evaluation of Mach-O files had become stricter because of some security issue with iOS.

This made me create a minimal C program instead, compile and link it and then use otool and my own Mach-O reader to just copy load commands one by one until it worked. What I found out was that the following load commands are necessary for creating a valid executable:

  • __PAGEZERO segment to handle null pointer exceptions (I do not know why it is necessary, just that it is)
  • __TEXT segment (with corresponding __text section)
  • __LINKEDIT segment (zero size)
  • an LC_MAIN command, telling the the dynamic loader (dyld) where in the file to look for main()
  • an LC_LOAD_DYLINKER command, telling the kernel which dynamic loader to use (in my case, /usr/lib/dyld)
  • an LC_LOAD_DYLIB command indicating where dyld can find libc (do not know why this is necessary?)
  • an LC_DYLD_INFO_ONLY command, with all fields set to zero, so that dyld does not try to do anything "clever"
  • an LC_DYSYMTAB command, also with all fields set to zero

Executable Image Output

A compiled Brainfuck program will have the following layout when loaded into memory. The __PAGEZERO segment is used to catch null pointer exceptions; for our cause it's not really necessary, but as OS X has become stricter when evaluating Mach-O executables, it is expected by the loader. The protection level for this segment is set to no access.

The __DATA segment and the __data section is empty on disk, but the load command for the section instructs the loader to reserve 2^16-1 bytes of memory for program data and to zero it out. There are two reasons for using a 2^16-1 sized cell array (rather than "just" the 30,000). Reason one is that it is easier to deal with for me, as it is page-aligned. Reason two is that even though Brainfuck programs should not expect the array to be larger than 30,000 cells, there are many that ignore this. In order to ensure that most Brainfuck programs would compile and run, it was helpful to choose a size that was larger than the minimum amount of cells.

The __TEXT segment and the corresponding __text section contains the actual opcodes that is ran. There is no restrictions on how large this section can be. My implementation, however, uses JUMP opcodes that accept a four byte operand which means that it cannot be larger than 4 GB.

                 MEMORY  LAYOUT    
0x0000000000 +---------------------+
             |     __PAGEZERO      |
             |                     |
             |                     |  <-- 4 GB with inaccessible memory
             |                     |
             |                     |
0x1000000000 +---------------------+
             |    __DATA __data    |  <-- 2^16-1 bytes of zero filled data
0x1000010000 +---------------------+
             |    __TEXT __text    |
             |                     |
             |                     |  <-- The compiled code (max 4 GB)
             |                     |
             |                     |
             +---------------------+

The beginning of the compiled code starts off by storing rbx and the stack pointer, then loading the address of the data section into rbp and zeroing out rax and rdx. Output is implemented as the write() syscall, and input is implemented as the read() syscall. When the program terminates, rbx and the stack pointer is restored. The current cell value is copied into rax and the program will exit with that value as exit status.

Cell Width

Each cell is considered one byte (8 bits) and to be equivalent of unsigned char in C. There are some Brainfuck implementations that support signed values and even cells that are larger than one 8-bit byte, but for convenience this implementation only support one byte cells.

Cells should be expected to wrap around on arithmetic overflow.

Cell Array

This implementation uses an array that consists of 2^16 - 1 cells. The cell pointer is initialised to 0, and negative array index is not supported. No bounds checking is done during run-time, so the programmer must keep track of where the cell pointer is. The cell pointer is likely to wrap on arithmetic, but this behaviour should not be expected.

End of File

When EOF is encountered in an input stream, the cell value will not change (no change).

Charset and Newlines

This implementation uses the host's character set and newline delimiter. \r\n is not converted.

Bf Compiler

Brainfuck compiler for macOS / OS X

Bf Compiler Info

⭐ Stars12
🔗 Source Codegithub.com
🕒 Last Update2 years ago
🕒 Created7 years ago
🐞 Open Issues0
➗ Star-Issue RatioInfinity
😎 Authorenfiskutensykkel