Date: 30 March, 1998

To: J3 J3 98-139

From: /interop

Subj: Interop tutorial on syntax direction


Based on requirements in 97-132rl and priorities on those requirements (start with low hanging fruit), /interop has made some decisions on directions for some of the requirements. This paper is intended to serve as a tutorial on what those decisions are and the rationale for those decisions.


Method for describing pre-defined C data types

Support for interfacing with the C data types int, short, long, long long, signed char, unsigned int, unsigned short, unsigned long, unsigned long long, float double, long double, complex, double complex, long double complex, and char shall be provided through a module (ISO_C_TYPES) which provides parameters to be used as kind type parameters in declaring Fortran variables of type corresponding to these C types. This is the method described in the inter-operability TR.


A number of commentors on the TR indicated a preference to not have to use kind type parameters when declaring variables with type corresponding to these C types. A mapping of types, such as in < == > to default real, etc. was suggested as an easier way. This approach is not feasible as the C standard does not, for example, require an int and a float to occupy the same size storage unit.


The ISO_C_TYPES module will contain definitions for the named constants


Some of these names are somewhat lengthy; users are free to define a module of their own which renames these parameters to a name of their choice.


Fortran does not mandate support for unsigned integers or signed character data types. The parameters to declare data of these kinds is part of the ISO_C_TYPES module for the purpose of declaring Fortran data type kinds which can pass or access variables of the C types. It is up to the programmer that Fortran operations on these types do "the right thing" regarding the "(un)"signedness" of these C types.





Method for writing interface bodies for C routines

Currently interfacing with C from Fortran often requires the use of wrapper routines written in C that manipulate arguments to match C calling conventions and to access the bind time names of procedures written in C. A set of attributes is introduced which, when applied to procedure names and/or variables, allow the Fortran user to directly access procedures written in C. These attributes are C, VALUE, REFERENCE, ALIAS, AND VARYING.


The C attribute

A subprogram name may be given the C attribute. A call to a subprogram with the C attribute causes the implementation to follow C default argument passing rules (scalar variables by value, etc.), to use the C implementation's calling conventions, and to mangle the name of the called routine as the C implementation would. Calling conventions and name mangling are outside the scope of the C standard.


The VALUE and REFERENCE attributes

The VALUE and REFERENCE attributes are used for dummy arguments to indicate if the dummy argument is a pass by reference or by value argument. For Fortran calling C,

the C attribute for the called routine casues the actual arguments to be passed according to C default conventions. These conventions are those specified by the C standard (scalars are passed by value, for example), as well as any implementation specific conventions. These attributes allow those defaults to be overridden. For C calling Fortran, these attributes indicate the manner in which C has passed the arguments.


Many existing implementations provide intrinsic functions which may be used in actual argument lists that indicate argument passing by calue or by reference (%VAL(), %LOC() for example), were discussed by /interop dismissed for this purpose as the intrinsic approach is useful for Fortran calling C, but not C calling Fortran.


The ALIAS attribute

C provides for mixed case names, and allows for naming conventions different than Fortran. C names are case sensitive and may begin with a leading underscore, or may contain characters other than those permitted in Fortran. In order to link to any C function, a method to specify a bind time name is needed. This is also true to access C data (externs) or to export global data which can be accessed by C (see EXTERN attribute below). The C attribute not along sufficient for calling C procedures because of the mixed case and special characters used in C names. The ALIAS attribute provides the ability to link to these names.


Procedure names may be given the ALIAS attribute, as many entities with the C_EXTERN attribute (below). Specifying ALIAS gives the entity (a) bind time name(s) by which it is known external to the subprogram it is declared in. It is necessary to allow an alias name to be mangled according to the C implementation name decoration rules for portability.



It is also necessary to provide the capability to specify an exact literal string to become the (a) bind time name(s) as some systems support more than one C implementation, and the name mangling schemes may be different than the C mangling algorithm supported in the Fortran implementation.


The string specified as the mangleable name is the actual name of a C procedure or extern as a C programmer would write it. This name is automatically decorated (mangled) by the implementation to match the decoration the C implementation would perform on a function or extern name. For example



INTEGER,C,ALIAS(MANGLEABLE="_first_name", "second","Third")::CFUNC


The VARYING attribute

The VARYING attritbute permits Fortran to call C functions when the C function argument list contains ellipsis (stdargs). By specifying VARYING for a called procedure, the implementation automatically "does the right thing" to set up the varying argument part of the call as needed by the C implementation. A procedure with the VARYING attribute allows a user to call a routine with any number of arguments (more or fewer than declared in an interface) without the processor flagging the argument count mismatch.


Fortran requires a set number of dummy arguments; there is no method to specify a variable number of arguments. Fortran optional arguments are not analogous to C stdargs. A Fortran optional argument which is not present in a call requires the implementation to have a mechanism which allows the caller to inquire about the presence of an optional argument.


C stdargs simply allow the user to pass an arbitrary number of arguments. If a C function calls a Fortran procedure with a varying number of arguments, the Fortran procdure must have the VARYING attribute. It is the responsibility of the caller to provide the mechanism for the called Fortran to determine the number of arguments actually passed. An example of such a mechanism is used in the C printf functions; the first argument is a string containing the format descriptors for how the remaining arguments are to be printed. The number of arguments is determined by the number of descriptors passed.


The present function is not defined for use in a procedure with the VARYING attribute.


Method to access and export global data

The C_EXTERN attribute indicates a variable, a module data object, or a common block name is to be globally accessible. A module name may not be given the C_EXTERN attribute.


The C_EXTERN attribute may be used in conjunction with the ALIAS attribute to access or export global data with any name(s) (special characters, mixed case). The alias name(s), one of which may be mangled, become(s) the bind time name(s) of the object.


Variables with the C_EXTERN attribute may be used in conjunction with the ALIAS attribute may be initialized.


Note that it is current common practice for Fortran programmers to use common blocks as a means to share global data with C routines. For this reason, common block names are included in the entities which may be given the C_EXTERN attribute. Common blocks with multiple variables are often mapped to C structs.








! A is globally accessible through the name A@$)_, B is globally accessible through the

! names the_b_thing and blivit@S_, assuming the same mangling algorithm described

! in the ALIAS attribute example above.


REAL,DIMENSION(100,100) :: R, S, T




ALIAS("block") /BLOCK/


! BLOCK is globally accessible through the name block. GHIA is globally accessible

! the name GHIA (unmangled as it does not have the C_EXTERN attribute).


Ability to call C functions with void* arguments

It is not at all uncommon for C functions to have an argument which is a pointer to void, meaning that the argument passed to it can be a pointer to any type. This is the case with functions in MPI. The Fortran programmer may write a procedure which has an argument that the programmer does not care what the type is (for example, a copy routine). Currently, the only way the Fortran programmer can do this is to not provide an interface. Doing so means no argument checking is done for that routine, pointer and assumed shape arrays may not be used, and other undesired restrictions may occur.


The other option is to write routines which are essentially clones of each other, differing only in the type of the argument the programmer does not care about. Two approaches are being discussed in /interopt; no decision has yet been made. The two approaches and the pros and cons of each are discussed here.


The intrinsic approach

Many implementations provide an intrinsic function which returns the address of its argument. The intrinsic function is often some variation of LOC(var). Such an intrinsic could be defined with a result type that is weakly typed, similar to the NULL () intrinsic, in that the result is assignment compatible with more than one type. The presence of thte LOC intrinsic should not be checked against the corresponding dummy argument to the LOC intrinsic should not be checked against the corresponding dummy argument in the interface of the called routine. For example CALL FRED (A, B, LOC (C), D) means that the third argument's type is not to be checked against the type of the third argument of FRED if an interface is known. (Or, if you will, and address (result of LOC) is assignment compatible with any type.) An example of a call to a copy routine may be




INTEGER COUNT, SIZE ! Number of elements to copy, size of an element









The first call copies the real array ARRAY1 to the real array ARRAY2. The second call copies the integer array IARRAY1 to the integer array IARRAY2. No error is detected for associating IARRAY1 with the implicity real typed SOURCE, similarly no error is issued for associating the integer arry IARRAY2 with the implicitly real typed SOURCE, similarly no error is issued for associating the integer IARRAY2 with the implicitly real typed TARGET.


Alternately, the result type of LOC could be strongly typed as a C_PTR, where C_PTR is a defined type with private components in the ISO_C_TYPES module described above. The subgroup has not discussed in detail how Fortran may deal with C pointers to structs, which are likely needed to manipulate linked lists. It is possible (a) C)_PTR type(s) will be needed for this also. The LOC function could be useful for this as well. One drawback to the LOC function as a stand alone solution to the "typeless" argument problem is that it is not useful for describing a dummy argument which may have any type in an interface. (The notion of (a) C_PTR type(s) may be a better solution for this problem as well.) Another drawback is the need for the programmer to specify LOC at each call to a routine that has "typeless" arguments.







The attribute approach

The alternate approach is the introduction of a VOID attribute. If a dummy argument in an interface is given the VOID attribute, the type of an actual argument being associated with the dummy argument would not be checked at a call site. An actual argument associated with a dummy argument with the VOID attribute could be of any type. For example










REAL A(100), B(100)

COMPLEX CX1(100), CX2(50)




Here the first call copies the real array A to the real array B. The second call copies the first 50 elements of the complex array CX1 to the complex array CX2. No errors are issued despite calling the routine with different types for the first and last arguments.

Advantages of the attribute approach are that the attribute is applied once to the dummy argument (not actual arguments in the argument list at call sites) and the attribute is easier on edits that would be a void type. A disadvantage is that it is not clear how a VOID attribute could be useful in other requirements of /interop.