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2.2. Data Types

Like the Java programming language, the Java Virtual Machine operates on two kinds of types: primitive types and reference types. There are, correspondingly, two kinds of values that can be stored in variables, passed as arguments, returned by methods, and operated upon: primitive values and reference values.

The Java Virtual Machine expects that nearly all type checking is done prior to run time, typically by a compiler, and does not have to be done by the Java Virtual Machine itself. Values of primitive types need not be tagged or otherwise be inspectable to determine their types at run time, or to be distinguished from values of reference types. Instead, the instruction set of the Java Virtual Machine distinguishes its operand types using instructions intended to operate on values of specific types. For instance, iadd, ladd, fadd, and dadd are all Java Virtual Machine instructions that add two numeric values and produce numeric results, but each is specialized for its operand type: int, long, float, and double, respectively. For a summary of type support in the Java Virtual Machine instruction set, see §2.11.1.

The Java Virtual Machine contains explicit support for objects. An object is either a dynamically allocated class instance or an array. A reference to an object is considered to have Java Virtual Machine type reference. Values of type reference can be thought of as pointers to objects. More than one reference to an object may exist. Objects are always operated on, passed, and tested via values of type reference.

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