Abstract Interface Types in GNAT: Conversions, Discriminants, and C++

Abstract Interface Types in GNAT: Conversions, Discriminants, and C++. Javier Miranda and Edmond Schonberg.

Ada 2005 Abstract Interface Types provide a limited and practical form of multiple inheritance of specifications. In this paper we cover the following aspects of their implementation in the GNAT compiler: interface type conversions, the layout of variable sized tagged objects with interface progenitors, and the use of the GNAT compiler for interfacing with C++ classes with compatible inheritance trees.

The addition of interface types, of the type found in Java, to Ada2005 presented compiler writers with an implementation challenge. This is a third paper in a series describing the implementation of interfaces in the GNAT Ada compiler (an earlier paper dealt with synchronized interfaces, an interesting special case).

The present paper deals mainly with issues caused by interface type conversions, and the related data layout issues. Of special interest is section 6 which shows how to write a C++/Ada multi-language program, in which method calls can be dispatched across language boundaries. Handling the multiple inheritance in the C++ code in this example is possible because the base classes have only pure virtual functions.