I put my eyes on Garbage Collection: Algorithms for Automatic Dynamic Memory Management quite some time ago but as it was quite expensive (and still is) had little expectations of reading it in a near time. However, an OmniThreadLibrary grant by Rico changed that. To show my gratitude I decided to write a short review of the book and all other programming-related books I will read in the future.
The “GC” book deals with – who would guess ;) – garbage collection. The topic is covered quite extensively. After the short introduction, three classical approaches are described – reference counting, mark-sweep algorithm, and copying algorithm. For each algorithm, the authors deal with the basics but also with most well-known implementations.
After that, more modern approaches are described – generational, incremental and concurrent GC. There are even chapters on cache-conscious GC (processor level 1/2 cache, that is) and distributed GC.
While most of the book is applicable only to managed and/or interpreted systems, two chapters deal with garbage collectors for C and C++.
The biggest problem of the book is that it’s 14 years old and it shows. For example, we can read thoughts like: “Today, although SIMM memory modules are comparatively cheap to buy and easy to install, programs are increasingly profligate in their consumption of this resource. Microsoft Windows’95, an operating system for a single-user personal computer, needs more than twelve megabytes of RAM to operate optimally.” Yeah, very relevant.
Other than that, I really loved this book. I know now enough from the GC field to have a semi-inteligent conversation on the topic and I will understand new algorithms and improvements when they appear (or at least I hope so). Plus I now know how big problem it is to write a GC for unmanaged environment (Delphi, for example). If there ever will be any and if it will be performing comparatively to the “classic” Delphi compiler, then kudos to the authors!