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Little Python to C++ Compiler

Project description

Pyxie is intended to be a simple Python to C++ compiler, with a target of compiling python code such that it can run on a microcontroller - like Arduino, MSP430 or ARM mbed type devices.

The name is a play on words. Specifically, Python to C++ - can be py2cc or pycc. If you try pronouncing “pycc” it can be “pic”, “py cc” or pyc-c”. The final one leads to Pixie.

This is unlikely to ever be a completely general python to C++ compiler - if you’re after than look at Shed Skin, or things like Cython, Pyrex, and PyPy. (in terms of diminishing similarity) The difference this project has from those is that this project assumes a very small target device. Something along the lines of an Atmega 8A, Atmega 328 or more capable.

This is also a difference from MicroPython - which is designed to run on microcontrollers larger than the Atmega 8A.

In the past I’ve written a test driven compiler suite, so I’ll be following the same approach here. It did consider actually making Pyxie use that as a frontend, but for the moment, I’d like python compatibility.


For the impatient: this does NOT do what you want, yet.

What it does do:

  • Recognise python programs with simple assigment & print statements
  • Parse those to an AST
  • Can represent equivalent C programs using a concrete C representation (CST)
  • Can translate the AST to the CST and then generate C++ code from the CST

That means it can compile one very very simple type of python program that looks like this…

greeting = "hello"
name = "world"

print greeting, name

… into the equivalent C program.

Yes, that’s not a lot. But on the flipside, it’s a starting point.


Many moons ago, I made a generic language parser which I called SWP (semantic whitespace parser), or Gloop.

It was an experiment to see if you could write a parser that had no keywords, or similar, in a completely test driven fashion. ie a bit like a parser for a Lisp like language that would look like python or ruby. It turns out that you can and there’s lots of interesting things that arise if you do. (Best seen in the slideshare link)

Which version of Python?

Well, it won’t be a complete subset of any particular python - it will probably be based around the intersection points in python 2 and 3. It will be, by definition, a non-dynamic (or limitedly dynamic subset)

Why write this?

Well, I wrote something similar to this at work, and but this is a complete rewrite from scratch, so I can share this with others.

There’s various reasons for that, but aside from the fact I’d find it useful, I also work with kids in my spare time, and it opens up options there.

By definition, it’s a ground up rewrite. One major difference between the two things is that this will aim to be a more rounded implementation, and also that rather than doing code generation from the concrete syntax tree that it will build a proper AST and do perform tree transformations before generating code.

Is this part of any larger project?

No. Not even a little bit.

It’s similar to something else I started last year, but this is a complete rewrite from scratch, entirely in my own time, using my own kit scratching a personal itch. It’s derived in part on my SWP project from about 10 years ago. Furthermore, it’s much, much better structured.

The aspiration for this is to help support The Scout Association’s “Digital Maker” badge, but that’s some way off!

Michael Sparks, 29 March 2015

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