Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sergey Antonov implements Yield for Delphi!

The Russian Delphi programmer Sergey Antonov (or Антонов Сергей - aka. 0xffff) is a real hacker in the positive sense. He approached me with some intriguing assembly code that implements the equivalent of the C# yield statement!

Yield makes it easier to implement enumerators (you know the simple classes or records with methods like GetCurrent and MoveNext that enables the for-in statement). Normally you have to implement a kind of state-machine to write an enumerator. With the yield statement this is turned around allowing you to express the iteration using easier to write loops (while, repeat-until or even a for-in loop). 

Sergey has pulled the impressive feat of implementing a proof-of-concept version of a yield infrastructure and mechanics - without help from the compiler!! It may have some limitations, but it is most interesting anyway. Without further ado, here is Sergey's article and code. Make sure you also read the follow-up article on Sergey's blog.

Despite some minor language barriers ;), this will be a most interesting blog to follow!

Guest article, by Sergey AntonoV

"C# Yield implementation in Delphi.

The C# yield keyword is used to provide a value to the enumerator object or to signal the end of iteration. The main idea of yield construction is to generate a collection item on request and return it to the enumerator consumer immediately. You may find it useful in some cases.

As you know the Enumerator has two methods MoveNext and GetCurrent.

But how does yield works?

Technical details of the implementation

When I saw this construction I asked myself where is MoveNext and GetCurrent?

The GetEnumerator function returns the enumerator object or interface, but the enumerator is not explicitly constructed anywhere. So there must be some secret mechanism that makes it possible.

How does it really work? After spending some time in the debugger and the answer appeared.

In short the compiler generates a special type of object that of course

has some magic MoveNext and GetCurrent functions.

And because this construction may be useful to our Delphi community, I asked myself, what can I do to get yield support in Delphi with no special methods calling with saving the form of using like in С#.

I first wanted to retain the yield C# syntax, but later I changed the syntax a little and used a delegate implementation to an external procedure almost like in C# but with an additional parameter yield wrapper object. First time it was a virtual procedure.

But of course I have to generalize implementation for all types.

And of course I had an additional question to myself. Сould I improve on the С# yield implementation? Maybe.

I started from the programmer’s viewpoint. Something like this:

number, exponent, counter, Res:integer;
// ...
while counter<exponent do

I had to implement some class that implemented the magic MoveNext and GetCurrent functions.

And if you use local vars (that is placed on stack) I had to implement some mechanism that guarantees no memory leaks for finalized types and some mechanism that guarantees that I use

the valid local vars when the actual address of local vars has changed after last yield calling due to external reasons (e.g. enumerator passed as parameter to other procedure, so the location in stack becomes different).

So after each yield call I have to preserve the state of local vars and processor registers,

clean up the stack and return a value to the enumerator consumer.

And after next call to MoveNext I must allocate stack space, restore the state of local vars and processor registers, i.e. emulate that nothing has happened.

And of course I must provide a normal procedure for exiting at the end.

So let’s begin

First of all we declare some types:

TYieldObject = class;
TYieldProc = procedure (YieldObject: TYieldObject);

TYieldObject = class
StackFrame: array[1..128] of DWORD;
procedure SaveYieldedValue(const Value); virtual; abstract;
constructor Create(YieldProc: TYieldProc);
function MoveNext:boolean;
procedure Yield(const Value);

And the implementation

constructor TYieldObject.Create(YieldProc:TYieldProc);
mov eax.TYieldObject.NextItemEntryPoint,ecx;
mov eax.TYieldObject.REAX,EAX;

function TYieldObject.MoveNext: boolean;
{ Save the value of following registers.
We must preserve EBP, EBX, EDI, ESI, EAX for some circumstances.
Because there is no guarantee that the state of registers will
be the same after an iteration }
push ebp;
push ebx;
push edi;
push esi;
push eax;

mov eax.TYieldObject.IsYield,0
push offset @a1
xor edx,edx;
cmp eax.TYieldObject.BESP,edx;
jz @AfterEBPAdjust;

{ Here is the correction of EBP. Some need of optimization still exists. }
mov edx,esp;
sub edx,eax.TYieldObject.BESP;
add [eax.TYieldObject.REBP],edx
mov eax.TYieldObject.BESP,esp;

{ Is there any local frame? }
cmp eax.TYieldObject.StackFrameSize,0
jz @JumpIn;

{ Restore the local stack frame }
mov ecx,eax.TYieldObject.StackFrameSize;
sub esp,ecx;
mov edi,esp;
lea esi,eax.TYieldObject.StackFrame;

{ Some need of optimization still exists. Like movsd}
rep movsb;

{ Restore the content of processor registers }
mov ebx,eax.TYieldObject.REBX;
mov ecx,eax.TYieldObject.RECX;
mov edx,eax.TYieldObject.REDX;
mov esi,eax.TYieldObject.RESI;
mov edi,eax.TYieldObject.REDI;
mov ebp,eax.TYieldObject.REBP;
push [eax.TYieldObject.NextItemEntryPoint];
mov eax,eax.TYieldObject.REAX;

{ Here is the jump to next iteration }

{ And we return here after next iteration in all cases, except exception of course. }

{ Restore the preserved EBP, EBX, EDI, ESI, EAX registers }
pop eax;
pop esi;
pop edi;
pop ebx;
pop ebp;
{ This Flag indicates the occurrence or no occurrence of Yield }
mov al,eax.TYieldObject.IsYield;

procedure TYieldObject.Yield(const Value);
mov eax.TYieldObject.REBP,ebp;
mov eax.TYieldObject.REAX,eax;
mov eax.TYieldObject.REBX,ebx;
mov eax.TYieldObject.RECX,ecx;
mov eax.TYieldObject.REDX,edx; // This is the Ref to const param
mov eax.TYieldObject.RESI,ESI;
mov eax.TYieldObject.REDI,EDI;
pop ecx;
mov eax.TYieldObject.NextItemEntryPoint,ecx;

//We must do it first for valid const reference
push eax;
mov ecx,[eax];
CALL DWORD PTR [ecx+VMTOFFSET TYieldObject.SaveYieldedValue];
pop eax;

{ Calculate the current local stack frame size }
mov ecx,eax.TYieldObject.BESP;
sub ecx,esp;
mov eax.TYieldObject.StackFrameSize,ecx;
jz @AfterSaveStack;

{ Preserve the local stack frame }
lea esi,[esp];
lea edi,[eax.TYieldObject.StackFrame];

{ Some need of optimization still exists. Like movsd }
rep movsb;
mov esp,eax.TYieldObject.BESP;

{Set flag of Yield occurance }
mov eax.TYieldObject.IsYield,1;

And what about my improvements

As for improvements I am still thinking about unwinding the local SEH (Structured Exception Handling) frames on yielding and restore it with any needed correction after return.

And how do you use it?

TYieldInteger = class(TYieldObject)
function GetCurrent:integer;
procedure SaveYieldedValue(const Value); override;
property Current:integer read GetCurrent;

{ TYieldInteger }

function TYieldInteger.GetCurrent: integer;

procedure TYieldInteger.SaveYieldedValue(const Value);

So now there is full support for integer.

TYieldString = class(TYieldObject)
function GetCurrent:string;
procedure SaveYieldedValue(const Value); override;
property Current:string read GetCurrent;

{ TYieldString }

function TYieldString.GetCurrent: string;

procedure TYieldString.SaveYieldedValue(const Value);
Self.Value := string(Value);

And now there is full support for string.

Sample of using a string Enumerator

procedure StringYieldProc(YieldObj: TYieldObject);
YieldValue: string;
i: integer;
for i := 1 to 10 do
YieldValue := YieldValue + IntToStr(i);

function TForm1.GetEnumerator: TYieldString;

procedure TForm1.Button1Click(Sender: TObject);
for a in self do

From Russia with love

Sergey Antonov aka oxffff (Russia, Ukhta)


ECMA 334

ECMA 335



Sergey's next article is here.


Anonymous said...

Nice! A real hack this is... Maybe it'll come in handy one day.

It seems a bit costly cycle-wise, although there's no way around it, considering the whole calling-state has to be preserved.

Note, that Indy10 does something similar (switching complete call-states), although with a different intent and thus implemented quite differently - see IdFiber.pas

Rob Kennedy said...

Bart van der Werf posted a similar idea in February 2006 that allocates a new thread to implement coroutines. The thread is just to provide a separate stack. I never got around to trying Bart's code, but my impression is that by having a separate stack, it becomes much easier to manage exceptions.

It's the same as Indy's idea of using fibers. A fiber gets the separate stack, but none of the scheduling because the scheduling is done manually by the program that created the fiber.

Rob Kennedy said...

And here's the link: http://www.festra.com/wwwboard/messages/12775.html

Craig said...

Both this "yield" code and the "coroutine" implementation Rob referenced are implementing continuations (in different ways) and then using them for a specific purpose. A generalized continuation implementation would probably work for both, and do other tricks as well.

That said, I have mixed feelings about Ruby-style continuations. I like the Haskell-style implementation (continuation passing) more, although I know it's just the other side of the coin.

Sébastien Doeraene said...


(sorry for my English, I am French-speaking)

This is quite a nice piece of code! Impressive.

But, unfortunately, it will only work in few useful cases. Just add a try..finally statement around the string example shown in this article, and call Yield inside the finally block: you get a nice EAccessViolation :-(

I have also thought about using addresses of local variables inside the YieldProc routine: each time the MoveNext method is called, these variables will be placed elsewhere, but their stored addresses will not change.

I suppose the threaded version would be more "usable" in practical situations.

All this set appart, the "rep movsb" statement can be realy easily replaced by "shr ecx,2 ; rep movsd". Indeed, Win32 ensures that the stack is always filled with 4-bytes values.

Hallvards New Blog said...

Hi Sébastien,

Please follow Sergey's series on his blog.

He keeps expanding and improving his yield code, including support for try-finally and try-except.




Sébastien Doeraene said...

Oh, sorry, I hadn't seen it.
Thank you.

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