Compilers for contrarians

In 2000, I took the Comprehensive Exams given by the Stanford University Computer Science department. In the Compilers exam, I got the top score…of those who failed.

It didn’t matter because I scraped through the Databases exam instead. But how could I fail Compilers? I had sailed through my undergrad compilers course, and written a few toy compilers for fun. I resolved to one day unravel the mystery.

Since then, I have sporadically read about various compiler topics. Did my younger self did deserve to fail? Maybe. There were certainly gaps in that guy’s knowledge (which are only a shade narrower now). On the other hand, there are equally alarming gaps in my textbooks, so maybe I shouldn’t have failed.

Or maybe I’m still bitter about that exam. In any case, here is a dilettante’s guide to writing compilers while thumbing your nose at the establishment.


Ben Lynn blynn@cs.stanford.edu 💡