Different Versions of Yale Haskell Compared

There are currently three different platforms running Yale Haskell.
Yale Haskell runs on Lucid Common Lisp, CMU Common Lisp, and AKCL.  This
document describes the differences between these systems.

Differences in performance between the different versions of Yale
Haskell reflect the underlying Lisp systems.  The better the Lisp
system, the better the Haskell system built on it.  However, getting
optimal performance from our Haskell system on top of a Common Lisp
system requires careful attention to the underlying compiler.  Small
changes in the optimization settings or the addition of crucial
declarations can make significant differences in performance.  We have
been doing most of our work using the Lucid system and have tuned it
more than the others.  These comparisons are greatly influenced by the
amount of time we have spent tuning the system: the CMU version has
been tuned only a little and the AKCL version hardly at all.


The following timings are only approximate.  They were obtained using
the timing functions provided by the Common Lisp system.  All timings
were done on an unloaded Sparc 1.  No attempt was made to account for
garbage collection, differences in heap size, or similar factors.  We
don't intend these benchmark results to be taken as an exhaustive
comparison of the different Lisp implementations involved.


We have had no trouble moving our system to different hardware
platforms under the same Lisp system.  Since the release is in source
form, we expect that users will be able to build on any hardware
platform supported by one the Lisps we have ported to.  Probably the
only real constraint on portability is the requirement for a large
virtual memory space.  

>From the comp.lang.lisp FAQ:

  Lucid Common Lisp runs on a variety of platforms, including PCs (AIX),
  Apollo, HP, Sun-3, Sparc, IBM RT, IBM RS/6000, Decstation 3100,
  Silicon Graphics, and Vax.

  CMU Common Lisp is free, and runs on Sparcs (Mach and SunOs),
  DecStation 3100 (Mach), IBM RT (Mach) and requires 16mb RAM, 25mb disk.

  Kyoto Common Lisp (KCL) is free, but requires a license. Conforms to CLtL1.
  It is available by anonymous ftp from rascal.ics.utexas.edu [],
  cli.com [], or [] (a machine in Japan)
  in the directory /pub.  AKCL is in the file akcl-xxx.tar.Z (take the
  highest value of xxx).  To obtain KCL, one  must first sign and mail a
  copy of the license agreement to: Special Interest Group in LISP,
  c/o Taiichi Yuasa, Department of Computer Science,  Toyohashi
  University of Technology, Toyohashi 441, JAPAN. Runs on Sparc,
  IBM RT, RS/6000, DecStation 3100, hp300, hp800, Macintosh II (under AUX),
  mp386, IBM PS2, Silicon Graphics 4d, Sun3, Sun4, Sequent Symmetry,
  IBM 370, NeXT and Vax. A port to DOS is in beta test as

We have not yet completed ports of Yale Haskell to any other Lisp
implementations, although we are likely to do so in the future.

 System Size

The overall size of the Haskell system depends on the size of the
underlying Lisp system and how much unnecessary Lisp overhead has been
removed for the system.  We have removed large Lisp packages (like
CLOS or CLX), but have not attempted to do any tree shaking.  The size
of the saved images (including the Lisp system, the Haskell compiler,
and the compiled prelude) is

Image Size:

Lucid   10 meg
CMU     18 meg
AKCL    11 meg

The larger size of the CMU system is probably an artifact of their way
of saving the system.

  Compilation Time

There are three possible ways to compile a Haskell program.  All
Haskell programs must be translated into Lisp.  The generated Lisp can
then be interpreted, using no additional compilation time; compiled
with a `fast' but nonoptimizing Lisp compiler; or compiled with the
`slow' compiler that aggressively attempts to perform as many
optimizations as possible.  

To time the `fast', nonoptimizing compiler, we have been using


and for the `slow', fully optimizing compiler, we have been using


so that the only difference is in the COMPILATION-SPEED quality.
Lucid does, in fact, provide two completely different compilers that
correspond to these optimize settings.  For all three implementations,
it appears that that the effect of a higher compilation speed setting
is primarily in being less aggressive about inlining and making use of
type declarations.

The Haskell system itself (including the Prelude) is normally built
with the fully optimizing compiler.

To show just the Haskell to Lisp compilation time, here are the times
needed to compile the Prelude (about 2500 lines of Haskell code).
This does not include the time in the Lisp compiler or starting up the

Time to compile the Prelude into Lisp: (CPU times)

Lucid     111 sec
CMU       87  sec
AKCL      576 sec

Running the Lisp compiler on the generated code takes far longer than
running the Haskell compiler to produce the Lisp code.  For example,
the optimizing Lucid compiler takes 47 minutes to compile the Prelude
(about x20 slower than Haskell -> Lisp).  The nonoptimizing compiler
is significantly faster but generates poorer code.

The following times are the Lisp compilation time for the Prolog
interpreter (found in the demo directory of our release):

Lucid - interpreted     8.8 sec  Haskell -> Lisp
Lucid - nonopt         20.0 sec  Lisp -> Machine code
Lucid - optimizing    320.0 sec  Lisp -> Machine code
CMU - interpreted      12.4 sec  Haskell -> Lisp
CMU - nonopt          121.0 sec  Lisp -> Machine code
CMU - optimizing      152.8 sec  Lisp -> Machine code
AKCL - interpreted     47.8 sec  Haskell -> Lisp
AKCL - nonopt          ~180 sec  Lisp -> Machine code
AKCL - optimizing      ~360 sec  Lisp -> Machine code

The AKCL timings are only approximate, because the Lisp timing
functions do not capture the time spent in the C compiler.

Code Speed

The speed of the Haskell program depends on whether the Lisp code
has been compiled with the optimizing or nonoptimizing compiler, or
is running interpretively.

The first benchmark is nfib, which indicates the basic speed of
function calling and Int arithmetic.

module Main where

nfib :: Int -> Int
nfib 0 = 1
nfib 1 = 1
nfib n = nfib (n-1) + nfib (n-2)

                             nfib 20            nfib 30    
Lucid (Interpreted)          116 sec            *
Lucid (nonopt)               0.14 sec           9.4 sec
Lucid (optimizing)           0.08 sec           4.8 sec
CMU (Interpreted)            23.8 sec           *
CMU (nonopt)                 0.24 sec           6.9 sec
CMU (optimizing)             0.11 sec           7.0 sec
AKCL (Interpreted)           141 sec            *
AKCL (nonopt)                0.20 sec           21.3 sec
AKCL (optimizing)            0.15 sec           18.2 sec

* Too slow to benchmark

For other data types, there was no significant difference betwen
optimizing and nonoptimizing compilation in any of the systems.
Changing the signature of nfib to Integer -> Integer:

                             nfib 20            nfib 30    
Lucid (interpreted)          140 sec            *
Lucid (compiled)             0.18 sec           10.2 sec
CMU (interpreted)            24.2 sec           *
CMU (compiled)               0.16 sec           10.5 sec
AKCL (interpreted)           145 sec            *
AKCL (compiled)              1.07 sec           127 sec

Nfib with signature Float -> Float:

                             nfib 20            nfib 30    
Lucid (interpreted)          222  sec            *
Lucid (compiled)             16.4 sec           2416 sec
CMU (interpreted)            44.2 sec           *
CMU (compiled)               1.61 sec           352 sec
AKCL (interpreted)           161 sec            *
AKCL (compiled)              103 sec            *

Overloaded functions run considerably slower than nonoverloaded
functions.  By allowing nfib to remain overloaded, Num a => a -> a,
and using the Int overloading the same benchmarks run much slower.
Again, there is no real difference between the different compiler
optimization settings.

                             nfib 15            nfib 20    
Lucid (interpreted)          14.2 sec           156 sec
Lucid (compiled)             0.97 sec           9.3 sec
CMU (interpreted)            23.8 sec           155 sec
CMU (compiled)               0.89 sec           15.6 sec
AKCL (interpreted)           30.8 sec           387 sec
AKCL (compiled)              10.3 sec           119 sec

Basic Haskell data structuring operations (pattern matching and
construction) can be tested using another version of nfib which uses
natural numbers:

  data Nat = Z | S Nat

The difference betwen CMU and Lucid here is consistent with other
benchmarks that manipulate structures.

                             nfib 10            nfib 15
Lucid (Interpreted)          1.39 sec           26.7 sec
Lucid (compiled)             0.26 sec           2.28 sec
CMU (interpreted)            3.1 sec            <stack overflow>
CMU (compiled)               0.16 sec           0.54 sec
AKCL (Interpreted)           4.25 sec           <stack overflow>
AKCL (compiled)              0.21 sec           13.9 sec

 A Large Program

For a final benchmark, we use the Prolog interpreter as a way of
getting a feel for general performance of larger programs.  This
program is typical of symbolic (as opposed to numeric) computation.

Time to solve append(X,Y,cons(a,cons(b,cons(c,nil)))):

Lucid    12.2 sec
CMU      12.0 sec
AKCL     69.1 sec

My interpretation of this result is that although Lucid is a bit
slower on the previous small benchmarks, it makes up for this is
larger programs where advantages like better instruction scheduling,
register allocation, or memory usage may make a difference.  In
general, Lucid and CMU are very similar in performance for larger


Briefly stated, the pluses and minuses of each system are as follows:

Lucid (4.0.0):
 + Development (nonoptimizing) compiler is very fast
 + Fast Haskell -> Lisp compilation
 + Generates good code
 + Very robust
 - Costs money
 - Slow floating point code
 - Fairly slow interpreter
 - The production (optimizing) compiler is extremely slow.

CMU (16e):
 + Free
 + As fast as Lucid for Haskell -> Lisp
 + Good floating point performance
 + Generated code is very fast
 + Fast interpreter
 - Slow Lisp -> machine code compilation
 - Doesn't run on many systems

AKCL (1.615):
 + Free
 + Widely portable
 - Slow (generally 3 - 5 times slower, sometimes much worse)
 - Flakey (tends to core dump on errors, choke on large programs, etc.)

Generally, using the fully optimizing compiler seems to be useful only
in code involving Int arithmetic.

The fast compiler for Lucid is a big advantage, delivering by far the
fastest compilation to machine code with relatively little loss in
speed compared to the optimizing compiler.

            Yale Haskell Group
            September 25, 1992

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