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What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic

Author: David Goldberg
Url: http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~dws/grouplinks/floating_point_math.pdf
Format: Pdf
Year: 1991
Category: Miscellanea
Pages: 97
Clicks: 1384

Floating-point arithmetic is considered an esoteric subject by many people. This is rather surprising because floating-point is ubiquitous in computer systems. Almost every language has a floating-point data type; computers from PC's to supercomputers have floating-point accelerators; most compilers will be called upon to compile floating-point algorithms from time to time; and virtually every operating system must respond to floating-point exceptions such as overflow. This paper presents a tutorial on those aspects of floating point that have a direct impact on designers of computer systems. It begins with background on floating-point representation and rounding error, continues with a discussion of the IEEE floating-point standard, and concludes with numerous examples of how computer builders can better support floating-point.

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