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Interfaces generally don't have to be translated. All fields are constant and the methods are abstract. Interfaces don't need a type descriptor with a single exception as mentioned in Type Descriptors. They also don't need a constant block and don't have to be included in the system table compared to regular classes (see Linker32). However, here again, there is an exception to this rule. And special care has to be given to interface methods.

Class Constructors

Interfaces cannot have instances and have no constructors. They may have a class constructor as in:

  Interface IA {
    Object obj = new Object();

Another such case would be:

  Interface IA {
    String[] str1 = {"abc", "def"};  // array created and filled in clinit
    String str2 = "hello";  // no clinit necessary

Such an interface must be inserted into the list initClasses (see Class File Reader) and must be added to the systemtable so that its class constructor can be called when classes are loaded (see Linker32).


The Bytecode instruction to call interface methods is invokeinterface.


When is this instruction issued? An example for this:

Example for various interface methods
   C obj = new C();
   obj.m2(); // invokevirtual is issued  
   D obj = new D();
   obj.m3(); // invokevirtual is issued  
   IA obj = new E();
   obj.m2(); // invokeinterface is issued  
   ((E)obj).m3(); // invokevirtual is issued  
   IB obj = new E();
   ((C)obj).m2(); // invokevirtual is issued  
   ((E)obj).m3(); // invokevirtual is issued  
   IC obj = new E();
   obj.m2(); // invokeinterface is issued  
   ((E)obj).m3(); // invokevirtual is issued  
   IB obj = new E();
   ((IC)obj).m2(); // invokeinterface is issued  

Conclusion: Solely when the static type is an interface type will the instruction invokeinterface be issued. As soon as a type cast to a regular class is made invokevirtual will be issued.

Interface Methods have no Fixed Index in the Method Table

The index into the method table cannot be fix. The following picture shows why.

Two implementations of the same interface

Interface A is implemented by class C and D and with it the method methodA1(). Let us consider the code:

   InterfaceA obj1 = new ClassC(); 
   InterfaceA obj2 = new ClassD(); 

How can the address of methodA1() be found for each of the two cases. The static type of obj1 is InterfaceA. The compiler can calculate that methodA1() is the first method within this interface. The dynamic type of obj1 is ClassC. With obj2 this will be ClassD. In the type descriptors of ClassC and ClassD the methodA1() will not be at the same index. It's also of no use to put all the interface methods at indices starting with 0, because classes might implement a set of diverging interfaces.
Another problem can be seen in the following class diagramm:

Methods with identical names in different interfaces

Here again the methods from InterfaceA and InterfaceB cannot be placed consecutively in the type descriptor.

The JVM resolves these references at runtime. In our system we must also ensure that according to the dynamic type the proper method can be found.

Searching an Interface Method in the Method Table

Out implementation differentiates between two cases, see below. With the instruction invokeinterface the type descriptor will be fetched. In there and with the aid of the correct offset a delegate method is fetched.
This delegate method must be placed at the same place in all associated type descriptors. Only at runtime the proper delegate method is retrieved and the proper interface method can be fetched.

Case 1

This is most common case. A class implements 1 interface which has 1 method → this method is inserted instead of a delegate method.

Case 2

If a class implements one interface with several methods or several interfaces → in the type descriptor we place the address of a delegate method at the index interfaceDelegateMethod. This method is a Compiler Specific Subroutine. Before calling the delegate method, the compiler puts the information about the specific interface the method belongs to together with the method index into a scratch register. For this purpose all interfaces are given a unique id. To give an example. The scratch register contains 0x00020003 → the interface has id=2 and the method no. 3 within this interface is called. The delegate method fetches the proper interface from the interface table (adjacent to the delegate method in the type descriptor). Each interface has an entry with 32 bit. The first 16 bit are reserved for the id, whereas the next 16 bit contain the offset into the method table. The offset is taken from the field size. With the first 16 bit given in the scratch register, the correct interface is searched. With the second half of the register you get the offset to the method table for this specific interface. Together with the method index from the scratch register the desired method can finally be found.
Important: For jumping into the interface method the LR cannot be used anymore, because the LR contains the address of the caller and the LR was not saved so far. This happens only at the start of the interface method. For practical implementation see notes in the code generator for the desired architecture, Backend.

Special Case

What happens if two independent interfaces each give a method with identical signature and class A implements both? A will have the address of the method once in its method table and will have the method listed in both interface blocks.

dev/crosscompiler/interfaces.txt · Last modified: 2019/07/11 19:34 by ursgraf