Read-write memory (registers and RAM)

Jolt proves the validity of registers and RAM using offline memory checking. In contrast to our usage of offline memory checking in other modules, registers and RAM are writable memory.

Memory layout

For the purpose of offline memory checking, Jolt treats registers, program inputs/outputs, and RAM as occupying one unified address space. This remapped address space is laid out as follows:

Memory layout

The zero-padding depicted above is sized so that RAM starts at a power-of-two offset (this is explained below). As noted in the diagram, the size of the witness scales with the highest memory addressed over the course of the program's execution. In addition to the zero-padding between the "Program I/O" and "RAM" sections, the end of the witness is zero-padded to a power of two.

Handling program I/O


Program inputs and outputs (and the panic bit, which indicates whether the proram panicked) live in the same memory address space as RAM. Program inputs populate the designated input space upon initialization: init memory

The verifier can efficiently compute the MLE of this initial memory state on its own (i.e. in time proportional to the IO size, not the total memory size).

Ouputs and panic

On the other hand, the verifier cannot compute the MLE of the final memory state on its own –– though the program I/O is known to the verifier, the final memory state contains values written to registers/RAM over the course of program execution, which are not known to the verifier.

The verifier is, however, able to compute the MLE of the program I/O values (padded on both sides with zeros) –– this is denoted v_io below. If the prover is honest, then the final memory state (v_final below) should agree with v_io at the indices corresponding to program I/O.

final memory

To enforce this, we invoke the sumcheck protocol to perform a "zero-check" on the difference between v_final and v_io:

final memory

This also motivates the zero-padding between the "Program I/O" and "RAM" sections of the witness. The zero-padding ensures that both input_start and ram_witness_offset are powers of two, which makes it easier for the verifier to compute the MLEs of v_init and v_io.

Timestamp range check

Registers and RAM are writable memory, which introduces additional requirements compared to offline memory checking in a read-only context.

The multiset equality check for read-only memory, typically expressed as , is not adequate for ensuring the accuracy of read values. It is essential to also verify that each read operation retrieves a value that was written in a previous step (not a future step). (Here, denotes the tuples capturing initialization of memory and the tuples capturing all of the writes to memory following initialization. denotes the tuples capturing all read operations, and denotes tuples capturing a final read pass over all memory cells).

To formalize this, we assert that the timestamp of each read operation, denoted as , must not exceed the global timestamp at that particular step. The global timestamp starts at 0 and is incremented once per step.

The verification of is equivalent to confirming that falls within the range and that the difference is also within the same range.

The process of ensuring that both and lie within the specified range is known as range-checking. This is the procedure implemented in, using a modified version of Lasso.

Intuitively, checking that each read timestamp does not exceed the global timestamp prevents an attacker from answering all read operations to a given cell with "the right set of values, but out of order". Such an attack requires the attacker to "jump forward and backward in time". That is, for this attack to succeed, at some timestamp t when the cell is read, the attacker would have to return a value that will be written to that cell in the future (and at some later timestamp t' when the same cell is read the attacker would have to return a value that was written to that cell much earlier). This attack is prevented by confirming that all values returned have a timestamp that does not exceed the current global timestamp.