[erlang-questions] Is there a good source for documentation on BEAM?

Richard Carlsson <>
Mon May 7 11:17:20 CEST 2012


On 05/07/2012 08:39 AM, Jonathan Coveney wrote:
> This question seems to come up now and again, and it's surprising to me
> that a crucial part of the documentation isn't better documented. Is
> there a reason that it is the case? Is the reason that there is no VM
> spec to give the devs the flexibility to change the intermediate layer
> without having to worry about backwards compatibility to the degree that
> Java does?

Yes, that's probably the reason. The BEAM is not the first VM for Erlang 
(JAM was used until the late 90s), and might not be the last. In the 
case of Java, the JVM was central for defining the language semantics 
and ensure portability across platforms and VM implementations. The 
Erlang language, on the other hand, is mostly functional and its 
semantics is better specified in terms of the source level code. The 
implementation on top of a VM is a detail.

Still, the Beam is an interesting VM, and the implementation has been 
thoroughly battle tested, so using it as a target for other languages is 
not a bad idea. It deserves to be better documented.

    /Richard



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