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Create an ERC20 contract

The following tutorial assumes that you already have a constellation instance running on port 8100 and that you have installed the the Python API.

Details for running a node are here.

Details of the Python API are here.


The ERC20 contract implements following functions:

  • totalSupply() : UInt256 gets the total token supply.
  • balanceOf(owner: Address): UInt256 gets the balance of an account having address owner.
  • transfer(to: Address, value: UInt256) : Bool sends value amount of tokens to address to.
  • transferFrom(from: Address, to: Address, value: UInt256): Bool sends value amount of tokens from address from to address to.
  • approve(spender: Address, value: UInt256) : Bool allows spender to withdraw from your account, multiple times, up to the value amount. If this function is called again it overwrites the current allowance with value.
  • allowance(owner: Address, spender: Address) returns the amount which spender is still allowed to withdraw from owner.

We now go ahead and implement most of these functions.


As smart contracts do not have implicit addresses, as in Ethereum, the function signatures are slightly different, as will see below, but the overall functionality remains the same.

Initialisation function

We first define the contract constructor function which is annotated with the @init keyword. The @init annotation tells the ledger that the function should be invoked upon initial deployment of the contract:

function createSupply(owner: Address, supply: UInt256)

    var supply_state = State< UInt256 >("total_supply");  

    var balance_state = State< UInt256 >(owner);
    balance_state.set( supply );


The transaction that submits the contract to the ledger is responsible for providing the constructor arguments.

The above @init function creates a state for the owner issuing supply tokens.

Furthermore, for this specific contract we have made the total supply programmable so that the contract can be reused and to facilitate testing.


The ERC20 contract has three query functions:

  • totalSupply(): UInt256.
  • balanceOf(owner: Address) : UInt256.
  • allowance(owner: Address, spender: Address) : UInt256.

We will define totalSupply and balanceOf in this section and discuss allowance later on.

Both totalSupply and balanceOf are straightforward to implement. totalSupply queries the State variable total_supply and returns it as a result:

function totalSupply(): UInt256

    var supply_state = State< UInt256 >("total_supply"); 
    return supply_state.get(0u64); 


balanceOf, on the other hand, does a dynamic look up based on the address of owner:

function balanceOf(owner: Address) : UInt256

    var balance_state = State< UInt256 >(owner);

      return UInt256(0u64);

    return balance_state.get(UInt256(0u64));


These two query mechanisms demonstrate two different ways of handling undefined states.

In the first query, we request the total_supply by calling get on the state variable and supplying a default value if the state does not exist.

In the second query, we manually check whether the variable existed at the beginning of the contract call and if not, we return 0.

Both are valid ways to manage a state existence.


The ERC20 contract defines three functions annotated with @action:

  • transfer(from: Address, to: Address, value: UInt256) : Bool.
  • transferFrom(from: Address, to: Address, value: UInt256): Bool.
  • approve(spender: Address, value: UInt256) : Bool.

We will discuss approve in the next section.

In etch, transfer and transferFrom are one and the same function as etch does not have an implicitly provided sender. Rather from and to are explicit function arguments and whether these addresses signed the transaction is checked within the @action function.

function transfer(from: Address, to: Address, value: UInt256) : Bool

      return false;

    var from_state = State< UInt256 >(from);
    var from_balance = from_state.get( UInt256(0u64) );
    if(from_balance < value)
      return false;

    var to_state = State< UInt256 >(to);
    var to_balance = to_state.get( UInt256(0u64) );

    // TODO: Polyfilling due to missing UInt256 functionality
    var u_from = toUInt64(from_balance);  
    var u_to = toUInt64(to_balance);
    var u_amount = toUInt64(value);
    u_from -= u_amount;
    u_to += u_amount;
    from_balance = UInt256(u_from);
    to_balance = UInt256(u_to);  

    return true;


The above demonstrates one of the simplest possible token contracts keeping a balance associated with each address and allowing transfers from one address to the other if the address holds sufficient tokens.

Implementing allowance

So far, the functions we've seen constitute a basic token contract that allows creation of tokens and transfer between participants. A more interesting functionality is the allowance mechanism in the ERC20 contract that gives one address the possibility of spending some amount based on the allowance details.

To create this functionality we could use the normal State object by simply defining the object identifiers. However, a more appropriate mechanism for this purpose is the ShardedState which ensures that the payload is assigned to an appropriate shard within the system.

Implementing the approve mechanism using the ShardedState is relatively easy as it provides dictionary-like functionality:

function approve(owner: Address, spender: Address, value: UInt256) : Bool

    var state = ShardedState< UInt256 >(spender);
    state.set(owner, value); 
    return true;


The above builds object addresses by concatenating the spender address with the owner address. However, unlike a normal dictionary, ShardedState does not keep a record of which entries exist or not. Such functionality could be added by simply adding another state variable keeping track of owners. We will see an example on a similar type of functionality in the next part of this guide.

Finally, implementing a query mechanism is equally straight forward:

function allowance(owner: Address, spender: Address) : UInt256

    var state = ShardedState< UInt256 >(spender);
    return state.get(owner, UInt256(0u64));


The contract provided here obviously still need additional functionality for allowance to be truly useful as we have not implemented any method to actually spend the allowance.

You can find the full contract here.