VFP implementations of transcendental functions and decimal conversion
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
The above three topics all have one common theme: the current code is reliant on FPA/FPEmulator for nontrivial things like the transcendental functions and conversion of floats to/from decimal format. So it would be very helpful if we had “VFP” implementations of these operations. Requirements:
If these requirements can be met, we can add the routines to VFPSupport so that arbitrary software can make use of them. Chances are we could offer both a SWI interface and a direct function call interface. Then we can remove the last bits of FPA code from BASICVFP, and it’ll be one less task to worry about for updating Norcroft to use VFP. 
Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
@Jeffrey I think you might remember my Float/SmartFP ^{1} module, which has code to satisfy many of these things. I have not looked at it for quite a while now, and I know there are improvements to be made, but if it is suitable I will return to it.
Please have another look at Float and let me know if you would like a later version under the name SmartFP. ^{1} Neither name is registered, but Float is already allocated, I think. Edit: Providing singleprecision should not be a problem, and the default could just be to use the doubleprecision with conversion at each end. 
Steve Fryatt (216) 619 posts 
Float is indeed already allocated… :) …although I’m not sure it was when you initially announced the module in question! 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
Indeed.
In which case they’re not very useful :( (IEEE compliance now added to OP!)
But are they accurate? BASIC’s 5byte float routines weren’t. For accurate implementations, you need to look at things like Dragon4, Errol, Grisu3, etc. http://www.ryanjuckett.com/programming/printingfloatingpointnumbers/
Unless I’m looking in the wrong place (the ‘test’ folder), the only tests I see are performance tests. Nothing seems to be checking that results are correct (and each operation is only tested with one set of input values?).
Let’s say the IEEE spec says that results need to be accurate to at least 15 digits. If the FPE is on the lower end of the spectrum (e.g. only designed to be accurate to 15 digits), but the new algorithm could easily be tuned to be accurate to 16 or 17 digits, then if you were to only perform your comparison against the FPE then you wouldn’t have any way of validating that extra accuracy. So that’s one reason why checking against an arbitraryprecision reference implementation is a good idea. Other reasons:
(And the presence of VFMA in VFPv4 means you could even have two implementations of each function, one which uses VFMA for extra accuracy, and one which doesn’t)
Float ticks many of the required boxes, but not the two biggest ones, which are accuracy/IEEE compliance, and a test suite to prove it. So if the SmartFP version includes both of those things then yes, I’d be interested in seeing it.
Yes, that would be an acceptable way of doing things. 
Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
OK. I think a more professional approach than I can offer is needed. ;) If my algorithms are useful please feel free to use them.
That is a steep condition. The polynomial methods I have used can probably not be made more precise with the resources I have available. It might need a another approach. I think that might be Cordic and I have a suspicion that may be used in the FPE.
Probably, but not provable by me.
I will.
I only have this to offer here. We are only looking for doubleprecision (64 bits). The FPE is designed to carry out all internal calculations to extendedprecision (80 bits). Only the return value is as double. If the FPE is still doing its job I think that is adequate, except:
That is a real problem of proof.
Does VFPv2 aim to be compliant? I vaguely recall that it is not, even if it has the required precision.
That is the problem with a polynomial method starting with doubleprecision values – the precision is quite soon reduced. As I said above, attaining the necessary final precision this way is probably not achievable.
But we cannot assume VFPv4, can we? You said VFPv2 in the OP. More thought needed. ;) 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
The current version of the spec is IEEE 7542008. VFPv4 aims to be compliant It can’t be officially compliant, since one of the requirements for 2008 is the fused MAC. VFPv3 and earlier are only advertised as being compliant with the ‘85 version of the spec. (Maybe there are some bits where it aims above ’85 in order to reach ’08 levels of compliance, but without going back through the specs myself I’m not sure if there are any other situations where the features covered by the VFP hardware have changed)
Which is why ARM & NEON implementations are acceptable :) (potentially NEON could be useful if you have lots of 64bit integer arithmetic to perform – not sure how practical it would be in practice though)
You can’t assume, but there’s no reason why you can’t test for features (or provide multiple implementations, and let someone else worry about the feature testing). (which reminds me, that I still need to extend VFPSupport to expose the extra VFPv4/NEONv2 feature registers via SWIs!) 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
The FPE uses a polynomial approach. Exactly how accurate it is, I don’t know (doing everything at extended precision should help the accuracy of the single/double results, at least). https://www.riscosopen.org/forum/forums/2/topics/3457?page=8#posts64437 (actual code is in this file) 
Sprow (202) 764 posts 
An extra angle I’ve not seen mentioned is modifying the PCS used to require 8 byte stack alignment (or not). Like we have APCSR and APCS32 would that justify an APCSVFP? Certainly inspecting the output of Keil MDK when working on CortexM family I’ve noticed they do, even if that means pushing a (integer) register you didn’t really need to just to keep things aligned. This allows double precision FP arguments to be pushed too which in turn allows them to be accessed in one gulp with VLDR/VSTR on 8 byte boundaries. So you might want to get in early and start aligning your function entries/exits ahead of that, so that if an exception occurs the VFP state can be pushed without having to worry about it being only 4 byte aligned. Thinking about compilers, there’s a bounty open right now which is only £2200 off target. The list price for a 1 year renewal for Keil MDK is £680 (versus £25), so think of it as only 4 renewals short! I think there’s a reasonable case to follow up that ARMv6/ARMv7 work with VFP support, else ROOL are snoozing on the job. 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
True, modern APCS versions use 8 byte stack alignment. But I think that’s more for LDR[EX]D/STR[EX]D than VLDR/VSTR. LDREXD/STREXD require doubleword alignment, and LDRD/STRD will only be atomic if they’re doubleword aligned (and you have LPAE). I think VLDR/VSTR will see a performance boost with 8byte alignment, but should still work fine with 4byte (at least in AArch32). Likewise with NEON (it’ll work fine with 4byte alignment, but if the compiler expects everything to be 8byte aligned it can include alignment specifiers on the instructions to boost the speed). 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
I was curious what newlib does for the transcendental functions (since newlib’s licensing is possibly permissive enough for inclusion in ROM), and it looks like they’ve had a couple of different attempts at it over the years. The first attempt was to use single/double precision Taylor series’s from Cody & Waite, essentially the same as the FPE. But that was deemed to be too inaccurate. The new version seems to be a mixed bag. Some look like they’re still based around the Taylor series (e.g. sin), others are different (e.g. log) 
Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
Yes, of course. I was remembering when I first glanced at the code, but forgot your later pointer. I only looked more carefully afterwards, and some time after I had worked things out using the other resources. About a year ago I acquired a copy of Cody and Waite ^{1} but I have not studied it in conjunction with the FPA source yet. I am intrigued enough now to do that. ;) It will be interesting to see how it compares. I have some grounding in Maths, but this has been a fascinating journey so far. ^{1} Interestingly, my copy has the this stamp inside: “CRAY RESEARCH INC. NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT LIBRARY 1786”. 
Rick Murray (539) 6214 posts 
:) I read through the source linked above. Understood maybe every third word… Just, you know, idiot question here. Why do we need accuracy at, like, seventeen decimal places? If that, why not eighteen? Nineteen? When is it “enough”, as we’re only really making a digital approximation of a number not easily stored. 
Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
I expect Jeffrey will have a more cogent answer, but it is really about standards. If computers and their languages are to share data then a standard is necessary. The standard that has been agreed is IEEE 754. I have found that the Wikipedia article on doubleprecision quite informative. For any particular application a lower precision may be acceptable, but having lots of different standards, as was once the case, would be confusing. Note that there is a distinction to be made between accuracy and precision. ;) 
GavinWraith (26) 668 posts 
This is a good question. Computers can only handle a small finite number of numbers. Humans, on the other hand, have little difficulty cooking up all kinds of infinitary systems. Mapping these onto finitary systems cannot avoid being a Procrustean outrage. 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
You’ve just answered your own question – we’re making a digital approximation of a number not easily stored. The more accurate that approximation can be (without requiring extra storage space), the better it is for everyone concerned.
For the most part, decimal places are the wrong thing to be looking at, since modern computers perform all their FP in binary. It’s only us humans who insist on using our outdated decimal counting system that care about decimal places ;) Measuring/specifying the accuracy/error of floating point calculations is probably best done by calculating how many ULPs there are between the two values.
The basic rule is that calculations should be performed as follows:
For simple arithmetic operations (addition/subtraction/multiplication/division/etc.) this is easy to do since there are wellunderstood rules for how many digits a result might contain (e.g. multiplying two 32 bit numbers won’t require more than 64 result bits). So the spec dictates that the results of these operations must be exact for any combination of inputs. For the transcendental functions the spec is a bit more relaxed, under the recognition that it could be quite hard to produce efficient hardware/software implementations which perform the calculations at “infinite” internal precision before rounding to the result to the destination width. Binary to decimal conversion faces a slightly different problem, because you often don’t specify ahead of time how many digits you want the output to contain. E.g. 2^64 can be precisely represented in a singleprecision float. If you were to convert it to decimal, you could get any number of different results:
For a singleprecision float, only the first eight or nine decimal digits are significant. So all of those numbers are correct, and if you were to type those numbers back into your program it should result in the same floating point value of 2^64. But to a human they look very different, potentially misrepresenting how accurate the computer really is.
Unfortunately floating point numbers don’t contain an “inexact” bit, so a standard number formatting routine can’t intelligently select between “full” and “minimal” representations, so I think most will err on the side of caution and produce a minimal result. “But how do I know how many digits my minimal result should contain?” I hear you ask – luckily that’s easy to calculate, and the ’08 version of the spec contains the formula. 
Rick Murray (539) 6214 posts 
Thank you for your interesting replies, especially Jeffrey’s detail, but kudos also to the Procrustean^{1} outrage. :) I think it worth considering my weather forecaster ( http://heyrick.ddns.net/ ) where the recent history reads as follows: 00 18/01/16 19:00 F 1007.8 >C 08.1 66 002.07 000.00 N 6.1199999992 01 18/01/16 18:30 F 1008.0 >C 08.1 68 003.10 000.00 NW 5.4000000004 02 18/01/16 18:00 F 1008.3 >C 08.4 70 003.10 000.00 W 8.2800000012 03 18/01/16 17:30 F 1008.1 >C 08.9 68 003.10 000.00 NW 5.0399999991 04 18/01/16 17:00 F 1008.7 >C 10.1 63 003.10 000.00 NE 3.96 05 18/01/16 16:30 F 1007.9 >C 10.4 61 003.10 000.00 WNW 5.0399999991 06 18/01/16 16:00 F 1007.7 >C 10.5 63 003.10 000.00 WNW 4.3200000003 I ought to mess with @% to clip the format to two decimal places as those results are daft. I haven’t because I keep thinking one day I’ll rewrite it in C^{2}… …point is, though, the computer (in this case, standard BASIC) clearly has difficulty representing numbers that seem quite simple to us. 4.32? 5.03 (or should that have been 5.04?)? Nope! Thanks again. ^{1} Amazingly, I knew who Procrustes was. The ancient Greeks had a rather…pragmatic…manner of solving problems. :) ^{2} C won’t make the issue go away, but the printf format specifier %.02f can hide it. 
Rick Murray (539) 6214 posts 
If anybody has the time/inclination: A floating point value is stored as a sign bit, followed by a number of exponent bits, and finally a larger number of fraction bits. A single precision number is described in the FPA datasheet (page 8 real, 12 in file) as: 31 30 . . . . 23 22 . . . . . . . . 0 Sign Exponent (msb) Fraction (lsb) If the number was: 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 How does one convert this to a readable value? Conversely, how does 1.234 get converted to the above format? Is the fraction “1234” and the exponent “3” (meaning push the dot 3 places to the left)? Is that how it works? It must be harder, as the first value is an exponent of 85 and a fraction of 2796202, so… um…? 
Jeffrey Lee (213) 4674 posts 
If you start from the equation
So the resulting equation is essentially Wikipedia has a much wordier version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singleprecision_floatingpoint_format 
GavinWraith (26) 668 posts 
The dominance of the floating point format, even down to the CPU level,is a testament to the importance of real numbers in physics, and to the relative unimportance of integers and algebra. Maybe the rise of cryptography will lead to standard implementations of other number formats? Did you ever come across a short story about a young man returning home, in the valleys of South Wales, from college, being asked by his Mam what he has to study? She gets very agitated when he describes the decimal point. But who owns it? , she asks. What right have they got to shift it right and left like that? 
Rick Murray (539) 6214 posts 
I will leave you (should have gone to bed an hour ago!) with something to think about… I agree. Not because I’m a programmer, but because it took a lot of thinking to understand that two plus three is five. Two is not five, three is not five, but the two of them are. They cease becoming a two and a three and become something completely unrelated, a five. Or to put this into context, the equation is b and c together become e. Or an apple and a pear becomes a banana. Once you’ve got your head around that, you’ll start to understand something that eluded far too many teachers ;) 
John Williams (567) 503 posts 
Now I was following you up to there! Now had the result been a fruit pie or cocktail … 
Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
I now appreciate the problems with the simplistic way I implemented these. They are useful, but not sufficient for the purposes you have outlined. Back to the drawing board. ;) 
Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
I feel confident in challenging the use of “Taylor series” here. They are polynomials, but use coefficients calculated for a particular approximation that reduce the number of terms. Taylor series themselves can rarely be used for many reasons.
sin is a straightforward polynomial, log is a ratio of polynomials. I have had a closer look at the FPE source and ‘Cody and Waite’ and I recognise a few things. ;) C&W is a ‘cookbook’ and it refers back to ‘Hart et al’, which is from where I drew my own algorithms. What the FPE source and C&W do, of course, is the professional bit of coding that is outside my experience. One problem that I noted above, and feel might be insurmountable, is that the FPE uses extended precision throughout in the algorithms, whether using the FPA or its internal code for the arithmetic functions. Using VFP we can only use double precision and I think there must be an inevitable loss of precision. I may need some tutoring about how VFPv4 can overcome this. ;) I did get a hint that replicating extended precision using NEON integer operations might be the way. Edit: replaced ‘constants’ with ‘coefficients’ 
GavinWraith (26) 668 posts 
When I had a BBC B computer I bought an excellent book with a commented disassembly of its ROM. Its routines for transcendental functions used continued fraction approximations; in effect approximations by rational functions. These are much more efficient than Taylor series, which give approximations by polynomial functions. You use lookup tables for the coefficients. I always reckoned that they should have made it possible for the user to supply her own lookup tables if she should happen to need a function not provided in the ROM. The code is basically .

Steve Drain (222) 901 posts 
To expand slightly, and touch the edge of my understanding:
That is a Chebyshev polynomial, derived from but not the same as a Taylor series.
That is a compact form of a [truncated] continued fraction. Either method might be used for any of the transcendental functions, depending on the range and precision required. They are each evaluated using a table of coefficients, which can be ‘plugged into’ the appropriate routine. The polynomials are efficiently calculated using only multiplication and addition using ’Horner’s method’. That is why the ‘fused multiply and accumulate’ (VFMA) operation in VFPv4 is very useful. Edit: add the word [truncated] 
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