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

Joe Armstrong <>
Mon May 7 13:47:33 CEST 2012

I think it works like this:

    1) first you don't understand how the X works (X=Beam, JVM, X11,
... you name it)
    2) You struggle - and think -  google and have a hot bath
    3) Eureka - bath flows over
    4) Now you can understand it - and you can also remember why you
could not understand it
    5) Now it's easy you understand it
    6) You see no reason to document it since it's obvious

Round about 4) there is a small window of opportunity to explain to
other people how it works.
Once you get to 6) it's very difficult to remember what it felt like
at point 2) and consequently difficult
to write decent documentation.


On Mon, May 7, 2012 at 11:27 AM, Michael Turner
<> wrote:
> "Actually, I don't think such docs are all _that_ crucial -- who
> really needs to know, except a small number of VM implementors?"
> Aren't Erlang's chances of greater mindshare improved by making it
> easier to become a VM implementor? I doubt very much that Java would
> be where it is today had it not been for clear VM specification.
> That's not to say that Erlang should follow in all of Java's
> footsteps, even if it could. But I have to say I was a boggled to
> learn that you can't find out what the VM opcodes mean without reading
> the source (and maybe not even then, if the source contains bugs
> vis-a-vis some idealized machine model.)
> -michael turner
> On Mon, May 7, 2012 at 5:46 PM, Thomas Lindgren
> <> wrote:
>>> From: Jonathan Coveney <>
>>>Sent: Monday, May 7, 2012 8:39 AM
>>>Subject: [erlang-questions] Is there a good source for documentation on BEAM?
>>>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?
>> Actually, I don't think such docs are all _that_ crucial -- who really needs to know, except a small number of VM implementors? (And they should read the source to get at all the goodies.) But perhaps someone on the list might be moved to do a tutorial presentation on an Erlang Factory or something?
>> (By the way, I too assume not doing it is to avoid getting bogged down into minutiae.)
>> If you want to learn more about some of the intellectual roots, try these:
>> http://wambook.sourceforge.net/
>> http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=188051
>> Best regards,
>> Thomas
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