Chapter 3: Compilers and Assemblers

All development systems are essentially a combination of many tools. Compilers, assemblers and debuggers are integral parts of these development tools. Fortunately Linux has a large number of tools available for software developers. These tools have a very rich set of features that we shall discuss in this and coming chapters. The basic reason for including this chapter is to enable a reader to use compilers and assembler in a development environment in a productive way. However this chapter is not a tutorial on any language or programming technique. Examples of code listings presented in this chapter are very simple and are intended to demonstrate the function of development tools.

GNU C compiler, most commonly known as GCC, is the most important part of this discussion. This compiler can be used to compile programs written in the following languages:

  • ANSI C
  • Objective C
  • C++
  • Java
  • Fortran
  • Pascal, after converting Pascal code to C

GCC recently added the capability to generate object code from Java source code. Work has also been done on Ada support.

GNU assembler is often needed in projects where you want to have tight control over a particular part of code and want to write it in assembly language. Most of the time people also write boot code for embedded systems in assembly language. The compiler uses assembler during the compilation process to generate object code.

In addition to the most common compilers, we shall also discuss the use of some less common languages in the Linux environment. These languages include the following:

  • Oberon
  • Smalltalk
  • Ada

The compilation process is completed in different stages. These stages are:

  • Preprocessing
  • Compiling to generate assembly language code
  • Assembling to generate object code
  • Linking to generate executable code

The GNU compiler takes help from many programs during this process and can be used to generate intermediate files. For example, the compiler can generate Assembly language code from a C source code file.

This chapter provides information about the GNU set of compilers and how to build a software development environment using GNU tools. During this process you will also learn the building process for the GNU C library, most commonly known as glibc.


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