Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time


rusty-turtle is an implementation of TurtleScript in Rust. TurtleScript is a syntactic (but not semantic) subset of JavaScript, originally created for the One Laptop per Child project.

Build, Install, and Run

Not hard... just start by building the latest (28-May-2013) version of rust. No problem, right? After that,

$ make

will create an executable named main. To run a TurtleScript REPL:

$ ./main
> 2+3
> var fact = function(x) { return (x<2) ? x : (x * fact(x-1)) ; };
> fact(42)

Use Control-D (or Control-C) to exit the REPL. You can also evaluate entire TurtleScript scripts by passing the name on the command line:

$ ./main foo.js


There are quite a few unit tests built into rusty-turtle (although never enough!). You can build and run them with make test. See the end of for a set of script-based tests, which you could manually reproduce in the REPL (if you were so inclined).


rusty-turtle is a simple interpreter for the bytecode emitted by bcompile.js from the TurtleScript project. It is heavily based on binterp.js from that project, which is a TurtleScript interpreter written in TurtleScript. The file contains the bytecode for the TurtleScript standard library implementation (from binterp.js) as well as the tokenizer, parser, and bytecode compiler itself (emitted by write-rust-bytecode.js in the TurtleScript project). This allows the rusty-turtle REPL to parse and compile the expressions you type at it into modules which it can interpret.

The interpreter is not particularly fast, however it could become so. The object model used associates an object map with every object; this map gives the position of all fields in the object. One of the ideas behind rusty-turtle was to explore the JavaScript/Rust interaction model; I wanted to see if one could use "native rust" data structures from JavaScript by simply providing an appropriate object map, and vice-versa. In fact, the vice-versa case was more interesting; since I'm one of the maintainers of Domino, which is a fork of Mozilla's dom.js project, I was interested in exploring whether the native javascript data structure used by domino/dom.js could in fact be accessed directly by rust (since Servo uses hand-coded JS bindings to a native Rust data structure instead).

For a fast(er) interpreter, the field lookup in the object map would happen only the first time a method was executed/interpreted; future uses would use a direct dereference of the appropriate field in the object (so long as the object map for the value remained the same).

Other research ideas

I've already described dom.js/servo as an interesting experiment. Other research ideas which could be pursued with rusty-turtle:

  1. Concurrency/parallelism exploration. The most obvious map to Rust's current concurrency mechanisms would be a web workers-style message-passing interface. Each TurtleScript "worker" would have its own Rust task and @-heap, and use (wrapped) Rust message pipes to communicate.

    But a more interesting exploration would use data sharing and fork/join parallelism. This could be pursued along with the experimental fork/join support in Rust, or it could be emulated using remote objects.

    Alternatively, speculative/transactional execution could be explored. A typical web page begins with a handful of <script> tags, often loading independent libraries. One could imagine executing all those scripts in parallel, pausing or aborting execution only if a sequential dependency was violated.

  2. Export Rust's llvm interface to TurtleScript code, then write a TurtleScript JIT in TurtleScript, using the Rust data structure for objects in memory.

  3. Tweak TurtleScript/rusty-turtle to parse/interpret asm.js; then write a bytecode-to-asm.js compiler for TurtleScript. The object map, layout and field lookup/access code would probably be moved into TurtleScript, such that the heap is accessed via a Typed Array.

  4. Optimization via partial evaluation. The interpreter still needs to do a significant amount of type matching and virtual dispatch. Much of this could be simplified via partial evaluation. That is, the first time a method is executed, various constants and near-constants (such as the object map corresponding to the method arguments) would be tracked and a specialized version of the method compiled which propagates all the constants through the method, including field offsets and method dispatch targets.


TurtleScript and rusty-turtle are (c) 2010-2013 C. Scott Ananian and licensed under the terms of the GNU GPL v2.


A TurtleScript interpreter written in Rust.







No releases published


No packages published