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8.2 Binding and unbinding

Binding goes like this: the binding stack pointer (bsp) is bumped, old value and symbol are stored at bsp - 1, new value is stored in symbol's value slot or the tls.

Unbinding: the symbol's value is restored from bsp - 1, value and symbol at bsp - 1 are set to zero, and finally bsp is decremented.

The UNBIND-TO-HERE VOP assists in unwinding the stack. It iterates over the bindings on the binding stack until it reaches the prescribed point. For each binding with a non-zero symbol it does an UNBIND.

How can a binding's symbol be zero? BIND is not pseudo atomic (for performance reasons) and it can be interrupted by a signal. If the signal hits after the bsp is incremented but before the values on the stack are set the symbol is zero because a thread starts with a zeroed tls plus UNBIND and UNBIND-TO-HERE both zero the binding being unbound.

Zeroing the binding's symbol would not be enough as the binding's value can be moved or garbage collected and if the above interrupt initiates gc (or be SIG_STOP_FOR_GC) it will be greeted by a garbage pointer.

Furthermore, BIND must always write the value to the binding stack first and the symbol second because the symbol being non-zero means validity to UNBIND-TO-HERE. For similar reasons UNBIND also zeroes the symbol first. But if it is interrupted by a signal that does an async unwind then UNBIND-TO-HERE can be triggered when the symbol is zeroed but the value is not. In this case UNBIND-TO-HERE must zero out the value to avoid leaving garbage around that may wreck the ship on the next BIND.

In other words, the invariant is that the binding stack above bsp only contains zeros. This makes BIND safe in face of gc triggered at any point during its execution.