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The use of capabilities to control the access of component programs to resources in an operating system is an attractive means by which to provide a uniform protection mechanism. In this paper, a capability is defined as an abstract encapsulation of the data needed to define access to a protected object. We do not assume that capability checking is necessarily concentrated in a protection kernel, nor that capabilities to different types of objects are all of the same degree of complexity. We explore a language-based capability mechanism in which protection environments are established by declaration, enforcement protocols are automatically produced by a compiler, and access control policy is clearly placed in the hands of the system designer. The basic mechanism introduced is a program component called a capability manager that is an extension of the monitor concept. It can be used to realize most of the facilities associated with kernel-based capabilities, including preemptive revocation.