D – The Little Language that Could

(So, in reality, D probably isn’t all that little, but here’s to it making it up the mountain.)

A good while ago I wrote a post about my hope for the D programming language as an up-and-comer in systems and embedded programming. D promises to bring a number of modern language concepts and constructs to low-level systems while yet producing a fairly efficient runtime. It’s 3 years on since my original post, but I’m still hopeful.

Just a few days ago a comment came in on my original post. My friend Mark VanderVoord responded in that comment thread. I thought I’d make the content of the thread a bit more visible (below) as it’s concerned with using D in the real world.

There’s been respectable progress toward D becoming viable in the mainstream. I’ll venture a guess that it’s going to be several more years until it truly is.

Update (7/1/2010): We don’t often attract a great many comments on our posts. But we have here. I point it out because there’s good resources, background, and perspective on D in the comments. Take a read. The original comment thread that sparked this post can still be found beneath this update.

Since our comments can’t contain links, I’m listing & linkifying here what our commenters have referenced:

  1. Steve Klabnik pointed out a new kernel project written in D (Steve is one of the authors)
  2. Kevin Bowling recommends the book The D Programming Language written by another of our commenters Andrei Alexandrescu
  3. Descent is an Eclipse plugin for D
  4. Several have compared/contrasted D to the new Go programming language by Google

Update (7/6/2010): Commenter devdanke suggested Apple as a D corporate backer. Google seems to be pursuing Go; why not Apple getting behind D? Apple certainly has a lot invested in LLVM of late. Apple may just be up to something—though I’m doubtful it’s D. Time will tell…

slide Says:
June 25th, 2010 at 07:35 PM

Is there any active development that you know of to get D running on embedded, bare-metal type platforms?

Mark Says:
June 25th, 2010 at 11:01 PM


This is the current state of things as far as I know:

The official D versions (D1 and D2) by Digital Mars (DMD) are only x86 so far

GDC – this is a D front-end with a gcc backend. Theoretically this means you can target anything gcc can (which is almost everything). The work I’ve done with it (mostly ARM) has been pretty tricky to get working, though.

LDC – this is a D front-end to LLVM. Again, this means you should be able to target anything LLVM can. LLVM has a lot of momentum lately… and this port seems to be pretty active too. I have done some small experiments with getting it to target an ARM9. It seemed to work well. I hope to have more time to work on that in the future.

For either LDC or GDC, you’re getting D version 1, which is missing some of the new (in-progress) features. But, they’re more stable, so that’s nice.

D links easily to C, so bringing in libraries, RTOS’s etc is pretty easy.

I hope this helps.