Modern dynamic linking infrastructure for PLT
Given that Unix won, I think it's interesting that dynamic languages make very little use of the dynamic linking and loading infrastructure provided by modern free Unixes such as Linux and the BSDs.
Most dynamic PLs opt to implement "dynamism" (i.e. redefining stuff, loading code at runtime) with application-specific data structures (e.g. Lisp: red-black trees for uniquifying symbols, function pointers and indirect function calls), and they do so solely at runtime (mostly using interpreters and JITs, although Scheme, one of the most advanced dynamic languages, is increasingly illuminating the possibilities of static, independent compilation of dynamic programs).
(Metaprogramming at runtime is perilous, as it is easy to mix up phase distinctions, something we can expect newer dynamic programming languages to discover in a decade (of course we don't know which decade.))
Link-time is mostly ignored. And yet, under Linux with its heavy use of shared objects, one cannot even start a single program without invoking the dynamic linker.
But some people, even some computer programmers, don't know how linkers work and what they do. Basically, a modern linking file format, such as ELF, is a declarative way to construct the memory image of a running process, with lots of features for dynamic customization of the image construction process (ELF even contains a customization hook called "program interpreter" in every executable!).
Likewise, modern compilers and runtime systems such as GNU C contain sophisticated features aimed squarely at dynamic languages: weak symbols for runtime redefinability (used by libc's malloc and in the Linux kernel, for example), computed gotos, nested functions, and increasingly, GC. And there is evidence that dynamic compilation and linking of C snippets is accepted and used in modern systems software.
I have collected some links to these topics, and would be interested to hear of languages and systems that you know that exploit them.
(Updates: added 3 ELF links; added Drepper; added Taylor)
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