I've been following Zig's unhaltable rise since early 2019 (incl. minor sponsoring for 2 years), though due to lack of personal bandwidth, managed to start using the language in earnest only end of last year. For the past 9 months I've been looking for (and actively working on) ways to integrate the language into my existing workflows, figuring out potential new architectures for my projects and trying to learn new things with each project...
Some brief disclaimers:
- My primary interests in Zig (for now) are browser-based use cases via WebAssembly, combining Zig with my plethora of ongoing TypeScript projects...
- This post gives only a brief overview of one completed and some other currently still early work-in-progress (and planned) projects. Some of these are not open source yet, but likely will be in due course... In any way, I'm planning to do more detailed write-up's for some of them, but feedback (esp. about some maybe obvious mistakes/shortcomings) is much appreciated!
An animated, interactive generative art piece/sculpture, hybrid TypeScript (thi.ng/umbrella) & Zig (compiled to WASM). This project is a browser-based remake of a hair/strand flocking simulation which I originally wrote in early 2006 as a sketch for what eventually became Nokia's global re-brand master texture (in the video from ~1:08, developed at Movingbrands), applied to all brand assets incl. product packaging, print/TV ads etc.
The original sketch was written in Processing (i.e. Java/OpenGL). The 2021/22 rewrite uses Zig for all physics & animation parts to compile the strands into a single mesh and to update it. The Zig module exposes a simple API to connect with the main JS app and thi.ng/webgl for zero-copy transfers to WebGL. Avoiding any memory allocations (both in Zig and TypeScript), helps the piece run at a stable, smooth-as-butter 60fps (max. framerate in current browsers), even on mobile!
From a technical POV, my hope for this project was to get hands-on experience with Zig's (truly amazing and easy to use!) cross-compilation features and to see how easy or hard it'd be to integrate with my other TS tooling. Test successful!
You can view 320 variations of the piece in this fxhash gallery. Best experienced on desktop, though!
thi.ng/wasm-api is a generic, modular, extensible API bridge, glue code and bindings code generator for hybrid JS/TypeScript & WebAssembly projects.
This package provides the following:
- A small, generic and modular
WasmBridgeclass as interop basis and much reduced boilerplate for hybrid JS/WebAssembly applications
- A minimal core API for memory allocation (can be disabled), debug output, string/pointer/typedarray accessors for 8/16/32/64 bit (u)ints and 32/64 bit floats. In the future we aim to also supply support modules for DOM manipulation, WebGL, WebGPU, WebAudio etc.
- Include files for C11/C++ and Zig, defining WASM imports of the JS core API defined by this package
- Extensible shared datatype code generators for (currently) Zig & TypeScript. The latter also generates fully type checked memory-mapped (zero-copy) accessors of WASM-side data. In general, all languages with a WebAssembly target are supported, however currently only bindings for these few langs are included.
- CLI frontend/utility to invoke the code generator(s)
The package readme has a lot more info & examples (even though I'm still writing docs for the latest codegen aspects & updates). There will be a new release in the next few days, followed by a dedicated blog post in the next couple of weeks...
Currently also still an active work-in-progress, S-TRACE is one of my upcoming generative art projects: a constantly shape-shifting negative space is being explored & visualized in different ways by 2D sphere tracing agents. The architecture is very similar to the above Quasiflock, however all Zig (WASM) ⇄ TypeScript interop is now handled via the thi.ng/wasm-api bridge & code generators (which I'm developing in parallel and in a feedback loop with this piece...)
This piece uses up to a million vertices for its animated visualizations and again thanks to Zig & WebGL2 instancing this runs @ 60fps without jittering the same on an iPhone 11 as on a MacBook Air M1...
(If you're interested, you can follow updates to the project on Twitter via this dedicated timeline.)
zig.thi.ng is a very early-stage repo where I'm starting to collect various Zig libraries & exercises I've been working on, e.g.
- SIMD-based generic vector type & operations (incl. type & size specific extras)
- Generic nD-Array base implementation
At the time of writing there's not much else to see just yet (plus I'm having to apply newer updates from some of those other projects mentioned here), but I'm hoping to develop it as a similar kind of monorepo as my predominantly TypeScript-based thi.ng/umbrella...
This is a low priority slow burning Zig porting effort of an OpenCL & Clojure-based voxel renderer from 2013. Again, my main interest here is learning more language features, in this case incl. writing the above mentioned
@Vector-backed generic vector algebra lib and trying out various
comptime patterns. Whilst working on this project I also came across some weird SIMD issues in Google Chrome. Seemingly, these have automagically resolved themselves in the meantime...
Zig on STM32
I'm also very keen exploring more of the microzig tooling to get back into the world of STM32 & similar, revamping some of my C projects...
- thi.ng/synstack - Forth VM and DSL for DSP & softsynth construction
- thi.ng/ct-gui - Small GUI library for embedded devices
- ARM / STM32F7 DIY synth workshop
Ps. FWIW I will also be sharing more about at least some of these projects in my talk at Software You Can Love...
In the use of zig, you belong to the people who are walking in the front. Only when more people and scenarios use it, it will become more popular.
Of course! In terms of uptake, Zig currently feels to me like Rust pre-1.0 aka anno domini 2014/15 or so, i.e. just before it exploded in popularity... :) I'm hyped to see all the momentum & other interesting projects people are working on and just doing my own lil' share... 👍