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  1. JDK
  2. JDK-4820062

Provide "struct" syntax in the Java language


    • Type: Enhancement
    • Status: Closed
    • Priority: P4
    • Resolution: Duplicate
    • Affects Version/s: 1.4.1, 5.0
    • Fix Version/s: None
    • Component/s: specification
    • Subcomponent:
    • CPU:
      generic, x86
    • OS:
      generic, windows_xp


      Name: rmT116609 Date: 02/18/2003

      The Java language lacks "structs".

      The lack of structs gives rise to serious code complexity
      when dealing with external systems, and serious performance
      implications for code that performs a large amount of I/O
      with external systems.

      Because of the way Java and Objects are intertwined it would
      probably not be entirely practical to insist on the same
      struct semantics that are found in C. In particular the lack
      of pointers and pass-by-value semantics for a trivial
      implementation of structs makes an apples-to-apples theft
      from the C language impossible.

      However, as the particular problem I am trying to crack is
      dealing with high-performance I/O operations (in fact,
      OpenGL graphics rendering in this case), I believe there is
      an elegant solution based on NIO buffers which should
      provide wonderful syntax, high performance, and 100% robust
      operation with minimal impact.

      The solution I propose is to associate a "struct" with a
      Buffer. The buffer's primitive type then becomes the struct,
      i.e a position(n) command on the buffer moves the buffer to
      access the nth struct in a buffer of these structs.

      A struct should syntactically accessed the same as a normal
      object, ie. passed by reference, and so on. Struct field
      assignments and reads take place directly to and from memory
      with no intermediate copy.

      A struct should be defined in Java using simple C-like
      syntax, and generate a .class file like any other Java class
      construct. The difference is that the fields may only be
      primitive Java types or themselves structs. Each field is
      not stored in an instance of the object itself; instead they
      are mapped to offsets in memory from a Buffer. A struct
      therefore must have a reference to its parent Buffer to
      prevent the buffer from being garbage collected and structs
      being allowed to access unmanaged memory.

      public struct Vertex {
      private float x, y, z, nx, ny, nz;
      private byte r, g, b, a;

      void normalize() {


      A struct descends from the class javax.nio.Struct, which has
      a package-visible constructor which takes the parent
      StructBuffer as a parameter:

      public abstract class Struct {

      private final Buffer buffer;
      private final int position;

      Struct(Buffer buffer) {
      this.buffer = buffer;


      The usage of the new "struct" keyword, which is
      syntactically similar to "class" and "interface", instructs
      the runtime not to reserve space for the structs' fields
      because they will instead be referenced directly from a
      buffer at the specified position.

      Then a buffer of this struct should be initialized, perhaps
      using the new generics feature to simplify the syntax:

      // Allocates a struct buffer with 10 structs in it at the
      specified address, which can be a long
      StructBuffer<Vertex> buf = new StructBuffer<Vertex>(10,

      // or from a ByteBuffer, which will check that the
      bytebuffer's capacity is an exact multiple of the struct's size
      StructBuffer<Vertex> buf = new StructBuffer(byteBuf);

      Then values from the buffer can be referenced directly as

      Vertex v0 = buf.get(0);
      Vertex v1 = buf.get(1, v1); // Constructs v1 if necessary

      The underlying implementation in Java should be identical in
      speed to C for the common case (with bounds check
      elimination and native byte ordering), yet because a struct
      can only be constructed by an existing StructBuffer, it will
      have all the safety of bounds-checking and garbage
      collection which will prevent illegal writes to memory.

      The two problems solved by this RFE would be the sheer
      complexity of maintaining multiple buffers to access
      different parts of a struct with different primitive types;
      and the massive increase in performance afforded by being
      able to reference memory directly and bracket accesses to
      members of a struct with one bounds check.

      You will understand if you do graphics programming; it is a
      key requirement of games programmers to have greatly
      simplified and efficient access to these operations or the
      benefits of C++ simply outweigh the extra complexity and
      overhead inherent in Java.

      (Review ID: 181371)


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              • Assignee:
                abuckley Alex Buckley
                rmandalasunw Ranjith Mandala (Inactive)
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