II

A Tree-Walk Interpreter

With this part, we begin jlox, the first of our two interpreters. Programming languages are a huge topic with piles of concepts and terminology to cram into your brain all at once. There’s theory — though not too much in this book — which requires a level of mental rigor that you probably haven’t had to summon since your last Calculus final.

Implementing an interpreter uses a few architectural tricks and design patterns uncommon in other kinds of applications, so we’ll be getting used to the engineering side of things too. Given all of that, we’ll keep the code we have to write as simple and plain as possible.

In less than two thousand lines of clean Java code, we’ll build a complete interpreter for Lox that implements every single feature of the language, exactly as we’ve specified. The first few chapters work front-to-back through the phases of the interpreter — scanning, parsing, and evaluating code. After that, we add language features one at a time, growing a simple calculator into a full-fledged scripting language.