Self-hosting JavaScript compiler in 1k lines of code
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stdlib Update Dec 31, 2016

This is an experimental source-to-source compiler that understands basic JavaScript and offers two extra language features on top. The compiler is bootstrapped (able to compile itself) and written in only 1k lines of code.

I created this project to give a basic, not too much time-consuming overview, how compilers like Babel work behind the scenes.


bin/stub contains the latest generated version (the "compiler.exe")
src/index contains the compiler source code we can edit (gets compiled by our stub)


node build


Pass by reference:
// variables with native types get passed by value in js -
// with 'inout' we tell the compiler to transform passed in variables into referenceable objects
function swap(inout a, inout b) {
  let tmp = a;
  a = b;
  b = tmp;
let test1 = 5;
let test2 = 10;
console.log(test1, test2); // 5, 10
swap(test1, test2); // swap both variables
console.log(test1, test2); // 10, 5

Compiles into:

function swap(a, b) {
  let tmp = a.$iov;
  a.$iov = b.$iov;
  b.$iov = tmp;
let test1 = { $iov: 5 };
let test2 = { $iov: 10 };
console.log(test1.$iov, test2.$iov); // here we point to the variable's value
swap(test1, test2); // here we pass the variable's reference
console.log(test1.$iov, test2.$iov); // much hax
enum Direction {
  Up = 0,
let dir = .Up || Direction.Right;

Compiles into:

var Direction;
(function(Direction) {
  Direction[Direction['Up'] = 0] = 'Up';
  Direction[Direction['Down'] = 1] = 'Down';
  Direction[Direction['Left'] = 2] = 'Left';
  Direction[Direction['Right'] = 3] = 'Right';
})(Direction || (Direction = {}));
let dir = 0 || 3;

How it works:

The first version of the compiler was written in very simple javascript, using only explicitly necessary language features. The compiler got extended more and more until it was able to parse the required subset of javascript language features, which are needed to parse and transform strings. In the next step the code generator got added which spits out plain javascript without any formatting. This code then turned into the stub file as well as remains our source file.

Stub usage:

let compiler = require("./bin/stub");
compiler.compile("const a = 10;", {
  console: console, // uses log and error method
  error: function(msg) {
    console.error("Error: " + msg); // wat happens on a error

See toy-compiler for a more extended version offering classes and a simple preprocessor.

Another compile-to-js project is this one, which offers a Swift-like language with type inference, custom operators, pass-by-reference etc.