[llvm-dev] Experimental 6502 backend; memory operand folding problem

N. E. C. via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Fri Feb 12 01:39:51 PST 2016

Greetings, LLVM devs,

For the past few weeks, I have been putting together a 6502 backend for LLVM.
The 6502 and its derivatives, of course, have powered countless microcomputers,
game consoles and arcade machines over the past 40 years.

The backend is just an experimental hobby project right now. The code is
available here: <https://github.com/beholdnec/llvm-m6502>. This branch
a target called "m6502", which can be used in llc to compile some very simple
functions. Only a few instructions are implemented, it's not useful for anything

There was another attempt in August of last year by c64scene-ar on GitHub to
design a 6502 backend, however, the project appears to be stalled with no
substantial progress. As far as I know, my backend is the only one able to
generate 6502 instructions.

Here is a test file: <https://gist.github.com/beholdnec/910eba79391bb24ba2fa>.

I would like to ask for help as I'm stuck on one particularly sticky problem.
I'll describe the problem shortly.

Occasionally, the topic of a 6502 backend comes up on this mailing list. Here
is an old thread talking about some of the challenges involved:

The 6502 has only three 8-bit registers: A, X and Y, and 256 bytes of hardware-
supported stack. Generating code for such a constrained system pushes LLVM to
its limits.

For one thing, LLVM couldn't figure out how to lower an ADD instruction that
added a reg to a reg. The 6502's ADD instruction can only add register A to an
immediate or a value loaded from memory. There is no instruction that adds A to
another register.

I had thought LLVM would allocate a stack object for the second operand, but
it didn't, and LLVM threw an ISel matching error. I currently solve this with
a custom ADD lowering function, see LowerADD in M6502ISelLowering.cpp.
Question: Is custom lowering ideal for this situation? Or, is there another way
to coax LLVM into recognizing ADD?

The problem I'm stuck on is folding memory operands. In the test file above,
in @testSum, switch %a, %b to %b, %a. llc will assert in Register Spilling:
"Remaining use wasn't a snippet copy". Debug output shows STRabs being
followed by an attempted fold of a stack-load into ADDabs.

I must be on the wrong track in M6502InstrInfo::foldMemoryOperandImpl. If
someone could please explain this error, it would really help. Thanks!

- Nolan

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