Proposal: Large arrays

james lowden jl0235 at
Tue Mar 24 09:35:30 PDT 2009

Proposal: Large arrays


J. Lowden


1.0    Initial version.



Java arrays are accessed via 32-bit ints, resulting in a maximum theoretical array size of 2147483647 elements.  While 

this is enough for most uses, some applications that need to handle large sequential data sets in memory would benefit 

from the ability to work with arrays indexed using 64-bit indices.  As "simply" changing the current array syntax to use 

longs as indices rather than ints would have the potential to break a large amount of existing code, I'm not proposing 

doing any such thing.  Instead, I'd like to see a separate but parallel array feature for creating and accessing both 

types of arrays.  A rather boring example, which simply fills a byte array with hexadecimal "FF" values, is shown below:

//int-indexed array
byte [] foo = new byte [200000];
for (int i = 0; i < foo.length; i++)
  foo [i] = (byte) 0xff;

//long-indexed array
byte [[]] foo2 = new byte [[20000000000L]];
for (long i = 0; i < foo2.length; i++)
  foo2 [i] = (byte) 0xff;

Syntax for declaration, instantation, instanceof and casting would use doubled square brackets to differentiate it from 

current array access.  Single brackets can still be used for access/mutation as the compiler should have sufficient 

information to decide whether it can treat a specific reference as an int-indexed or long-indexed ("large") array.  The length field would be a long rather than an int.  Like standard arrays, large arrays would derive directly from 



Java gains the ability to easily work with large sequential data sets.


Declaring extremely large arrays simply isn't possible right now; in cases where such a structure is desirable, something 

has to be hacked together.  For applications dealing with large data sets, the current upper limit on array size is constricting, and will only grow more so as 64-bit systems continue to become more common and RAM less expensive.


This can't be implemented well solely via a compiler patch; existing VMs would likely need to be changed to support this 

concept natively; new VM instructions parallel to the existing array instructions would likely be required.  Also, a class 

parallel to java.util.Arrays for performing standard operations on large arrays would likely be desirable (although 

presumably fairly simple to implement.)


Build your own class for storing long-indexes sequences, possibly as an array-or-arrays.



// calculate the first 3 billion fibonacci numbers and store them in an array

long [[]] fib = new long [[3000000000L]];
fib [0] = 0;
fib [1] = 0;
for (long i = 2; i < fib.length; i++)
  fib [i] = fib [i - 1] + fib [i - 2];


// this doesn't really do anything particular useful, but does serve to show how casting and instanceof are handled
byte [] foo = new byte [400000];
byte [[]] blah = new byte [[40000000000L]];
Object temp = Math.random () < 0.5 ? foo : blah;
if (foo instanceof byte [[]])
  System.out.println (((byte [[]]) foo).length);
  System.out.println (((byte []) foo).length);



Syntax-wise, the following expressions become legal:

SomeType [[]] foo;    // declares foo as a long-indexed "large" array of SomeType,
			// where sometype is either a primitive or reference type

foo = new SomeType [[some_long_value]];   // instantiates a large array of length
					// some_long_value, which is either a long
					// or some type that can upconvert or unbox
					// to a long

long some_long = foo.length;   // large arrays will have a "length" field, which is
				// a long indicating the number of elements in the array

foo instanceof SomeType [[]]   // returns true if foo is a large array
				// of SomeType, false otherwise

(SomeType [[]]) foo    // casts foo to a large array of SomeType.  If foo isn't 
			// a large array of SomeType or a subclass of SomeType,
			// throws a ClassCastException

Large arrays are not castable or assignable to or from int-indexed arrays of the same element type.

int [[]] p = new int [40000]; // compiler error
int [] p = new int [[760000]]; // compiler error
int [] foo = (int []) (new int [[4040404040L]]); // throws ClassCastException
int [[]] foo = (int [[]]) (new int [4040]); // throws ClassCastException

Canonical class names for large arrays would be generated in a similar fashion to those for standard arrays, but 

using the opposite square bracket.  The following table shows some examples.

declared type     class name
int [[]]          ]I
int [[]][[]]      ]]I
Object [[]]       ]Ljava.lang.Object;

The same set of indicator character (i.e., 'I' for int, 'L' for reference types, etc.) as are currently used for arrays 

would be used for large arrays.

A set of additional VM instructions parallel to the current array instructions would be added to support this feature.  

The following table shows the current instruction, the proposed instruction for large arrays, and any semantic 

differences (reference

array instruction   proposed instruction   differences
aaload              lxaaload               index value becomes a long
aastore             lxaastore              index value becomes a long
anewarray           lxanewarray            count value becomes a long
arraylength         lxarraylength          return value becomes a long
baload              lxbaload               index value becomes a long
bastore             lxbastore              index value becomes a long
caload              lxcaload               index value becomes a long
castore             lxcastore              index value becomes a long
daload              lxdaload               index value becomes a long
dastore             lxdastore              index value becomes a long
faload              lxfaload               index value becomes a long
fastore             lxfastore              index value becomes a long
iaload              lxiaload               index value becomes a long
iastore             lxiastore              index value becomes a long
laload              lxlaload               index value becomes a long
lastore             lxlastore              index value becomes a long
multianewarray      lxmultianewarray       countN values become longs
newarray            lxnewarray             count value becomes a long
saload              lxsaload               index value becomes a long
sastore             lxsastore              index value becomes a long


Compilation would be parallel to the present mechanism for compiling arrays, but would output the lx* VM instructions listed above for large arrays instead of the current array instructions.


Any test sufficient to test support for current arrays should work for this as well.


It would probably be desirable to create large array versions of the various java.util.Arrays methods, whether that be done by adding methods to the existing java.util.Arrays class or putting them somewhere new.  At some point in the future, large java.util.List<X> might be a desirable library feature, but that is beyond the scope of this proposal.


An additional class (LargeArray or something of that sort) would need to be added to the java.lang.reflect package.  This would have a similar set of methods and constructors to java.lang.reflect.Array, but with long "index" and "length" parameters where appropriate.


VM needs to support the above-listed large array instructions.


Existing "hacks" to provide this kind of behavior could be replaced with large arrays.



None. This feature simple doesn't exist; the proposed declaration/instantation syntax currently results in a compiler error.


No changes.



4880587 (64-Bit indexing for arrays)




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