The compiled code for certain languages includes constructors
(also called initialization routines)—functions to initialize
data in the program when the program is started. These functions need
to be called before the program is “started”—that is to say, before
main is called.
Compiling some languages generates destructors (also called termination routines) that should be called when the program terminates.
To make the initialization and termination functions work, the compiler must output something in the assembler code to cause those functions to be called at the appropriate time. When you port the compiler to a new system, you need to specify how to do this.
There are two major ways that GCC currently supports the execution of initialization and termination functions. Each way has two variants. Much of the structure is common to all four variations.
The linker must build two lists of these functions—a list of
initialization functions, called
__CTOR_LIST__, and a list of
termination functions, called
Each list always begins with an ignored function pointer (which may hold 0, -1, or a count of the function pointers after it, depending on the environment). This is followed by a series of zero or more function pointers to constructors (or destructors), followed by a function pointer containing zero.
Depending on the operating system and its executable file format, either crtstuff.c or libgcc2.c traverses these lists at startup time and exit time. Constructors are called in reverse order of the list; destructors in forward order.
The best way to handle static constructors works only for object file formats which provide arbitrarily-named sections. A section is set aside for a list of constructors, and another for a list of destructors. Traditionally these are called ‘.ctors’ and ‘.dtors’. Each object file that defines an initialization function also puts a word in the constructor section to point to that function. The linker accumulates all these words into one contiguous ‘.ctors’ section. Termination functions are handled similarly.
This method will be chosen as the default by target-def.h if
TARGET_ASM_NAMED_SECTION is defined. A target that does not
support arbitrary sections, but does support special designated
constructor and destructor sections may define
DTORS_SECTION_ASM_OP to achieve the same effect.
When arbitrary sections are available, there are two variants, depending
upon how the code in crtstuff.c is called. On systems that
support a .init section which is executed at program startup,
parts of crtstuff.c are compiled into that section. The
program is linked by the
gcc driver like this:
ld -o output_file crti.o crtbegin.o … -lgcc crtend.o crtn.o
The prologue of a function (
__init) appears in the
section of crti.o; the epilogue appears in crtn.o. Likewise
for the function
__fini in the .fini section. Normally these
files are provided by the operating system or by the GNU C library, but
are provided by GCC for a few targets.
The objects crtbegin.o and crtend.o are (for most targets)
compiled from crtstuff.c. They contain, among other things, code
fragments within the
.fini sections that branch
to routines in the
.text section. The linker will pull all parts
of a section together, which results in a complete
that invokes the routines we need at startup.
To use this variant, you must define the
If no init section is available, when GCC compiles any function called
main (or more accurately, any function designated as a program
entry point by the language front end calling
it inserts a procedure call to
__main as the first executable code
after the function prologue. The
__main function is defined
in libgcc2.c and runs the global constructors.
In file formats that don’t support arbitrary sections, there are again
two variants. In the simplest variant, the GNU linker (GNU
and an ‘a.out’ format must be used. In this case,
TARGET_ASM_CONSTRUCTOR is defined to produce a
entry of type ‘N_SETT’, referencing the name
and with the address of the void function containing the initialization
code as its value. The GNU linker recognizes this as a request to add
the value to a set; the values are accumulated, and are eventually
placed in the executable as a vector in the format described above, with
a leading (ignored) count and a trailing zero element.
TARGET_ASM_DESTRUCTOR is handled similarly. Since no init
section is available, the absence of
the compilation of
main to call
__main as above, starting
the initialization process.
The last variant uses neither arbitrary sections nor the GNU linker.
This is preferable when you want to do dynamic linking and when using
file formats which the GNU linker does not support, such as ‘ECOFF’. In
TARGET_HAVE_CTORS_DTORS is false, initialization and
termination functions are recognized simply by their names. This requires
an extra program in the linkage step, called
collect2. This program
pretends to be the linker, for use with GCC; it does its job by running
the ordinary linker, but also arranges to include the vectors of
initialization and termination functions. These functions are called
__main as described above. In order to use this method,
use_collect2 must be defined in the target in config.gcc.