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MIT Turbocharges Python's Notoriously Slow Compiler

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The Python logo over imagery representing DNA sequencing or other data.

In addition to genomics, Codon also could be applied to other applications that process massive datasets.

Credit: Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum

Python has long been one of—if not the—top programming languages in use. Yet while the high-level language's simplified syntax makes it easy to learn and use, it can be slower compared to lower-level languages such as C or C++.

Researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) hope to change that through Codon, a Python-based compiler that allows users to write Python code that runs as efficiently as a program in C or C++.

"Regular Python compiles to what's called bytecode, and then that bytecode gets executed in a virtual machine, which is a lot slower," says Ariya Shajii, an MIT CSAIL graduate student and lead author on a recent paper about Codon presented in February at the 32nd ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Compiler Construction. "With Codon, we're doing native compilation, so you're running the end result directly on your CPU—there's no intermediate virtual machine or interpreter."

From IEEE Spectrum
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