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Garbage Collection Alternatives for Icon

Report ID:
April 1991
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Copying garbage collectors are becoming the collectors of choice for
very high-level languages and for functional and object-oriented
languages. Copying collectors are particularly efficient for large
heaps because their execution time is proportional only to the amount
of accessible data, and they identify and compact this data in one
pass. In contrast, mark-and-sweep collectors execute in time
proportional to the heap size and require a second pass to compact
accessible data. The performance of existing systems with old
mark-and-sweep collectors might be improved by replacing their
collectors with copying collectors. This paper explores this
possibility by describing the results of replacing the mark-and-sweep
collector in the Icon programming language with four alternative
collectors, three of which are copying collectors. Copying collectors
do indeed yield better performance, but at a significant cost in
space. Measurements suggest that the mark-and-sweep alternative is
best for Icon programs that have 1-5MB heaps.

This technical report has been published as
Garbage Collection Alternatives for Icon. Mary F. Fernandez and
David R. Hanson, Software--Practice and
22(8) 1992, pp. 659-672.
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