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From: Robert Ramey (ramey_at_[hidden])
Date: 2006-05-16 12:09:10

John Maddock wrote:

> Hold on a second, C++ implements what the IEEE-754 standard requires
> FP arithmetic to do, and infinities and NaN are definitely part of
> that standard.

Hmmm - I want to clarifiy this. (The quoted text is from

a) IEEE-754 does specify infinities and NaN
   C++ doesn't - C++ leaves it undefined and up to the implementation.

b) IEEE-754 specifies flags to inquire as to the result of the last
floating point operation. C++ doesn't specify anything about this.

c) "The IEEE standard strongly recommends that implementations allow trap
handlers to be installed."
C++ doesn't permit this. On the other hand, the C++ standard library does
throwing exceptions from functions sine(x) for domain errors and such. So
a mismatch here.

d) "Another ambiguity in most language definitions concerns what happens on
overflow, underflow and other exceptions. The IEEE standard precisely
specifies the behavior of exceptions, and so languages that use the standard
as a model can avoid any ambiguity on this point. " But C++ doesn't permit
exceptions to be thrown in these instances.

> I assure you that they do have legitimate uses,

Actually, the paper cited about give a good example of a such legitimate
use. I believe such
uses are far less common than people seem to think. Even the example cited
in the paper wouldn't require saving and recovering from a text stream.

> but
> more to the point, it's not only divide by zero that generates
> infinities, heck even addition (or subtraction) can generate
> infinities if push comes to shove.

Of course, I'm just using divide by zero as a one of the most common
cases. But it occurs in other cases.

So C++ is out of sync with IEEE-754. I see two ways to put it into sync.

a) define what C++ should do for currently undefined operations like divide
by zero and the others.

b) require that C++ implementations throw exceptions when undefined
operations are invoked.

Until one of the above (or maybe something else) is done. There can really
be no unambiguous resolution to the problem of passing results from
undefined operations from one machine to another.

Obviously, I believe that the adoption of b) above would result in fewer
programs with hidden bugs.

Robert Ramey

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