x86 Behavior and Implementation
This appendix discusses x86 and SPARC compatibility issues related to the floating-point units used in x86 based systems.
The hardware is 80386, 80486, and Pentium microprocessors from x86 and compatible microprocessors from other manufacturers. While great effort went into compatibility with the SPARC platform, several differences exist.
On x86 based systems:
- The floating-point registers are 80-bits wide. Because intermediate results of arithmetic computations can be in extended precision, computation results can differ. The -fstore flag minimizes these discrepancies. However, using the -fstore flag introduces a penalty in performance.
- Each time a single or double precision floating-point number is loaded or stored, a conversion to or from double extended precision occurs. Thus loads and stores of floating-point numbers can cause exceptions.
- Gradual underflow is implemented entirely in hardware. There is no nonstandard mode.
- The fpversion utility is not provided.
- The extended double format admits certain bit patterns that do not represent any floating point values (see TABLE 2-8). The hardware generally treats these "unsupported formats" like NaNs, but the math libraries are not consistent in their handling of such representations. Since these bit patterns are never generated by the hardware, they can only be created by invalid memory references (such as reading beyond the end of an array) or from explicit coercions of data in memory from one type to another (via C's union construct, for example). Therefore, in most numerical programs, these bit patterns do not arise.
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