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Discussion on: 🚀 Demystifying memory management in modern programming languages

deepu105 profile image
Deepu K Sasidharan Author

Your last edit is exactly the point, from a language point we care about cost of operation when we talk about speed, and the cost of operation for the stack is lower than heap and that is why we say stack is faster than the heap. The actual speed of writing/reading from any part of memory indeed is the same but for heap, there are more operations involved than stack when writing/reading value making the cost of operation higher for the heap.

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havarem profile image
André Jacques
Suppose you allocate a buffer of int values on the stack, and one on the heap, and end up with two int* pointers.

That is not true, since in the stack everything is offset of the stack pointer that is in the CPU registers. So, for example in ARM CPUs, it will take something like 3 instructions to retrieve any of the int in the buffer sitting in the stack. On the situation of the one on the heap, the first element will take something like 4 instructions since you need to set a register with the address you will find on the stack (the pointer of your heap buffer), and AFTER the other elements will be read AS FAST AS the stack since the other int element of the buffer are an offset of that value. And like I said earlier, if you have the address as a label, you will need 2 instructions to set your register before LDR/STR that memory block.

I think what you are trying to say is that at the time you have the address loaded in a register, the read time will be the same, which is true. The danger is that people might believe it is always the best solution to use the heap since it is so large, but doesn't account for the way it is handled. Embedded systems are very sensitive to this considering low frequency (very so often below 100 MHz), no OS and small memory footprint. The good practice, in that case, is only to use the heap with object allocated at startup so there is NO malloc anywhere, making sure the system stays deterministic. I know that in a 12-core i9 CPU clocks at 4GHz, the impact on most of the system people work (except OS for that matter, or video games) will be so negligible.