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ByteCode is the instruction set for a VirtualMachine.

When a JavaSource file is compiled, the corresponding MachineLanguage instructions necessary to carry out the implementation of the class is created and packed into a ClassFile along with other information, such as constants, field/method meta data, etc.

When this class is distributed, the target computer uses the ByteCode to understand how to animate the objects of the class appropriately. There are many ways to do this, including interpreting, just in-time compiling, compiling, and many other variants.

In effect, Byte Code becomes a common way for a class to describe the behavior of its implementation so that it may be animated on a wide variety of computers and platforms.

To do this, Byte Code needs to provide all of the fundamental building blocks that describe behavior of an object. The internal representation of classes within a particular implementation of a VirtualMachine may or may not be ByteCode. A VirtualMachine may for example choose to interpret directly the ByteCode. Alternatively it might convert the ByteCode into native machine instructions (e.g. by using JustInTime compilation techniques)

To better understand what these building blocks, here is a summary.

Java Byte Code Summary:

See Also: JavaVirtualMachineSpecification; The Java Soft VM Specification

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