What code is machine/arch specific? syscalls, std lib …

A: (obviously) binary object code — including the unix/windows kernels. It runs on the bare hardware — must be machine specific.

A: Assembly language source code — must conform to the hardware instruction set. You can't use a i386 assembly code on a PowerPC. Note each line of assembly source code translates to a line in machine code.

A: C compiler — implements the ABI [1]. The object code produced by the compiler is binary machine code, so the compiler itself must be architecture-specific.

A: Syscalls – are specific to the Architecture. The linux syscalls for i386 architecture include about 300 functions. 90% of them are universally available on all architectures but the rest are architecture-specific.

A: C standard library (like glibc) – provides wrappers over syscalls. Since a small number of syscalls are architecture-specific, the std lib is necessarily architecture-specific. However, the “contamination” stops here – I believe anything linked to the std lib is portable at source level. Therefore the std lib provides a “standard” API. Java portability is even better – where the same bytecode compiled on one architecture is usable on any other, assuming 100% pure java without native code.

[1] API vs ABI – explained in [[linux system programming]]

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