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At the heart of all garbage collectors lies the process of identifying and processing reference fields within an object. Despite its key role, and evidence of many different implementation approaches, to the authors' knowledge no comprehensive quantitative study of this design space exists. The lack of such a study means that implementers must rely on 'Conventional wisdom', hearsay, and their own costly analysis. Starting with mechanisms described in the paper and a variety of permutations of these, they explore the impact of a number of dimensions including: the choice of data structure, levels of indirection from object to metadata, and specialization of scanning code.
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