[gclist] origin of "handle"

Eliot Moss moss@cs.umass.edu
Sun, 21 Sep 2003 21:52:47 -0400

Not sure what I con contribute to the history of use of this specific term
(handle) for a non-moving reference to a possibly moving block of
storage. However, the concept of object tables for GC'ed systems goes back
somewhat farther. For example, for Smalltalk, developed mostly in 1970s,
early systems and the reference design of the so-called "blue book" were in
terms of an object table. I suspect the Smalltalkers borrowed these
implementation ideas from implementations of Lisp and related languages.

Coming the other way, operating systems and language run-time systems have
often provided things called "handles", to represent and mediate access to
resources that are somewhere else, notably (open) file handles. After all,
the term suggests a small thing attached to a large one, by means of which
one can both hold on to and manipulate the larger thing. In IBM-land such
would often be called "control blocks". Clearly terms like this often have
a flavor arising from a subculture.

In hope that this somehow contributes to answering your question ....

-- Eliot
J. Eliot B. Moss, Associate Professor     http://www.cs.umass.edu/~moss    www
Director, Arch. and Lang. Impl. Lab.      +1-413-545-4206                voice
Department of Computer Science            +1-413-695-4226                 cell
140 Governor's Drive, Room 372            +1-413-545-1249                  fax
University of Massachusetts at Amherst    moss@cs.umass.edu              email
Amherst, MA  01003-9264  USA              +1-413-545-3733 Priscilla Coe  sec'y