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Fyr

Fyr is a modern systems programming language that combines the versatility of C with the ease and safety of application programming languages like Java, Go or TypeScript. Like C/C++, Fyr can be used for low-level hardware-oriented programming and high-level application programming. In contrast to C, the Fyr compiler guarantees memory safety and thread safety at compilation time.

As a systems programming language, Fyr targets all computing platforms. Currently the Fyr compiler generates code that can be compiled on UNIX-like operating systems. Therefore, Fyr generates C99 code that can be compiled to a binary using the system native C-compiler. Support for platforms like web browser (as WebAssembly), and simple IoT-devices like Arduino Uno or ESP32 are on the roadmap. An inital but incomplete version targeting Vulkan has already been created. It is planned to support GPUs and other non-standard hardware setups as well.

Fyr is a compiled language with static type checking, a lean memory footprint, and generates high-performance code. Using C99 as intermediate output, Fyr code can even run efficiently on small embedded devices, because it profits from the optimizations and platform support available by well supported C-compilers.

Fyr is designed to implement all tiers of distributed IoT applications, i.e. embedded devices, server-side code and the Web UI.

Design Rationale

The motivation behind Fyr is that we are lacking a modern systems programming language that could replace C.

C has been created in 1972 and it is still in heavy use today for projects including operating systems, interpreters, GPU programming or embedded programming. Two properties contribute to the success of C. The language itself is not bound to a runtime system and it makes only few assumptions about the hardware it is running on. As a consequence, C code can run on almost any hardware, ranging from PCs, to GPUs and embedded. The drawback of C (and C++) is that the language is neither memory safe nor thread safe. Especially for modern IoT applications this increases the risk of bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Fyr is designed as a safe replacement of C. However, replacing C entirely is a very long term goal. In the meantime, Fyr can be easily combined with existing C sources, because Fyr can compile to C code. If some hardware can run C then it can run Fyr as well.

Fyr has no garbage collector, because on restricted hardware there is not enough RAM to generate garbage in the first place. There might not even be a heap where dynamic data could be allocated. Fyr uses its type system and static code analysis to determine where memory is allocated and free’d (if there is a heap). In this respect it follows Rust and Swift, which have no garbage collector either. However, Fyr’s type system is less restrictive than that of Rust and closer to the hardware than that of Swift.

Fyr is by intention a small language that is easy to write and easy to read. It is very much inspired by GO. Unlike C++, Fyr offers no complex OO-constructs and no meta-programming capabilities. Unlike GO v1, Fyr offers templates, because they contribute to static type checking.

The goal of Fyr is to produce small binaries (comparable to C/C++), efficient code (somewhere between GO / Java and C / C++) and a productive programming environment.

Project Status

We are currently in the process of rewriting the compiler using Go. The documentation of the previous TypeScript based version can be found in the legacy branch.

Fyr is a research project of the Distributed Systems research group at the University Duisburg Essen. Fyr is still in alpha status. The Fyr compiler for C99 is working, although not all planned features are implemented yet.