IEEE vs. Microsoft Binary Format; Rounding Issues (Complete)

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Article ID: 35826
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Summary

This article discusses the following:

  1. Why Microsoft uses the IEEE Floating Point format instead of the Microsoft Binary Format (MBF) in the following products:

    • Microsoft QuickBasic versions 4.00, 4.00b, and 4.50 for the IBM PC.
    • Microsoft Basic Compiler versions 6.00 and 6.00b for MS-DOS and MS OS/2.
    • Microsoft Basic PDS version 7.00 for MS-DOS and MS OS/2.
  2. Differences between IEEE Floating Point format and the Microsoft Binary Format (MBF). Numeric rounding issues in IEEE. For more information, search for a separate article on the following words:
    IEEE and tutorial and rounding
  3. Microsoft plans for using IEEE instead of Microsoft Binary Format (MBF) in the future.

More information

IEEE and Rounding

  1. Why use IEEE instead of MBF?

    IEEE was chosen as the math package for QuickBasic version 4.00 and Microsoft Basic Compiler 6.00 to allow for mixed-language calling capabilities. This ability is a very desirable feature. In addition to this feature, IEEE also is more accurate than Microsoft Binary Format (MBF). Calculations are performed in an 80-bit temporary area rather than a 64-bit area. (Note, the Alternate-Math Libraries use a 64-bit temporary area.) The additional bits provide for more accurate calculations and decrease the possibility that the final result has been degraded by excessive roundoff errors. Keep in mind that precision errors are inherent in any binary floating-point math. Not all numbers can be accurately represented in a binary floating-point notation.

    IEEE also can take advantage of a math coprocessor chip (such as the 8087, 80287, and 80387) for great speed. MBF cannot take advantage of a coprocessor.
  2. If the calculations are more accurate, why are numbers such as .07#, 8.05#, and 9.96# displayed with a 1 in the 16th digit? Microsoft Binary Format (MBF) does not do this.

    MBF is accurate to 15 digits, while IEEE is accurate to 15 or 16 digits. Since the numbers are stored in different formats, the last digit may vary. MBF double-precision values are stored in the following format:
          -------------------------------------------------
         |              |    |                             |
         |8 Bit Exponent|Sign|   55 Bit Mantissa           |
         |              | Bit|                             |
          -------------------------------------------------
    						
    IEEE double precision values are stored in the following format:
          -------------------------------------------------
         |    |                | |                         |
         |Sign| 11 Bit Exponent|1|  52 Bit Mantissa        |
         | Bit|                | |                         |
          -------------------------------------------------
                                ^
                                Implied Bit (always 1)
    						
    You will notice that Microsoft Binary Format (MBF) has 4 more bits of precision in the mantissa. However, this does not mean that the value is any more accurate. Precision is the number of bits you are working with, while accuracy is how close you are to the real number. In most cases, the IEEE value will be more accurate because it was calculated in an 80-bit temporary. (When the IEEE standard was proposed, the main consideration for double precision values was range. As a minimum, the desire was that the product of any two 32-bit numbers should not overflow the 64-bit format.)
  3. Why doesn't my rounding algorithm eliminate the 1's in the 16th place?

    Your rounding algorithm is correctly rounding the numbers, but the extra digit is occurring because of the inherent rounding errors and format differences. For example, 6.99999999999999D-2 is rounded to .07 but the internal IEEE representation of the value is 7.000000000000001D-2. (It is true that MBF displays the value as .07, but the difference in values is not considered as a problem. It is a difference between math packages.)
  4. Why doesn't the STR$ function get the proper strings from either single or double-precision numbers?

    The STR$ function works correctly. The value placed in the string is the same as the value displayed on the screen with an unformatted PRINT. If the IEEE representation of .07 is 7.000000000000001D-2, then the STR$ will return 7.000000000000001D-2.

    There are a few ways to generate the desired string. The method used depends on the range of numbers, other resources available, and programmer's preference. Listed below are three possible routines that can be used. Keep in mind that as soon as the string is converted back to a number, it will no longer be truncated.

    Method 1

    If the range of numbers is between 2^32/100 and -2^32/100, the following method can be used:
       FUNCTION round2$ (number#)
       n& = number# * 100#
       hold$ = LTRIM$(RTRIM$(STR$(n&)))
    
       IF (MID$(hold$, 1, 1) = "-") THEN
          hold1$ = "-"
          hold$ = MID$(hold$, 2)
       ELSE
          hold1$ = ""
       END IF
    
       length = LEN(hold$)
       SELECT CASE length
       CASE 1
          hold1$ = hold1$ + ".0" + hold$
       CASE 2
          hold1$ = hold1$ + "." + hold$
       CASE ELSE
          hold1$ = hold1$ + LEFT$(hold$, LEN(hold$) - 2)
          hold1$ = hold1$ + "." + RIGHT$(hold$, 2)
       END SELECT
       round2$ = hold1$
       END FUNCTION
    						
    The value being rounded is multiplied by 100# and the result is stored in a long integer. The long integer is converted to a string and the decimal point is inserted in the correct location.

    Method 2

    This routine is much more complicated than the first method, though it handles a much larger range of values. The value being rounded is multiplied by 100# and this result must fit within the range of valid double precision numbers.
      FUNCTION round$ (number#) STATIC
       number# = INT((number# + .005) * 100#) / 100#
       hold$ = STR$(number#)
       hold$ = RTRIM$(LTRIM$(hold$))
    
       IF (MID$(hold$, 1, 1) = "-") THEN
         new$ = "-"
         hold$ = MID$(hold$, 2)
       ELSE
         new$ = ""
       END IF
    
       x = INSTR(hold$, "D")
       DecimalLocation = INSTR(hold$, ".")
    
       IF (x) THEN  'scientific notation
         exponent = VAL(MID$(hold$, x + 1, LEN(hold$)))
         IF (exponent < 0) THEN
           new$ = new$ + "."
           new$ = new$ + STRING$(ABS(exponent) - 1, ASC("0"))
           round$ = new$ + MID$(hold$, 1, 1)
         ELSE
           new$ = new$ + MID$(hold$, 1, DecimalLocation - 1)
           num = LEN(hold$) - 6
           IF num < 0 THEN
             num = exponent
           ELSE
             num = exponent - num
          new$ = new$+MID$(hold$, DecimalLocation+1, x-DecimalLocation-1)
           END IF
           new$ = new$ + STRING$(num, ASC("0")) + ".00"
           round$ = new$
         END IF
    
       ELSE  'not scientific notation
         x = INSTR(hold$, ".") 'find decimal point
         IF (x) THEN
           IF MID$(hold$, x + 3, 1) = "9" THEN
             xx = VAL(MID$(hold$, x + 2, 1)) + 1
             hold1$ = LEFT$(hold$, x)
             IF xx = 10 THEN
         hold1$ = hold1$+LTRIM$(STR$(VAL(MID$(hold$, x + 1, 1)) + 1))+"0"
               round$ = new$ + hold1$
             ELSE
               hold1$ = hold1$ + MID$(hold$, x + 1, 1) + LTRIM$(STR$(xx))
               round$ = new$ + hold1$
             END IF
           ELSE
             round$ = new$ + LEFT$(hold$, x + 2)
           END IF
         ELSE
          round$ = new$ + hold$
         END IF
       END IF
       END FUNCTION
    						

    Method 3

    This method requires the use of the Microsoft C Compiler 5.x. It uses the C library routine sprintf(). This routine takes formatted screen output and stores it in a string variable.

    C Routine:
       struct basic_string {
          int length;
           char *address;
           } ;
    
         void round(number,string)
         double *number;
         struct basic_string *string;
         {
         sprintf(string->address,"%.2f",*number);
         }
    						
    Basic Program:
       DECLARE SUB Round CDECL (number#, answer$)
       CLS
       b# = .05#
       FOR i = 1 TO 10
            b# = b# + .01#
            answer$ = SPACE$(50)
            CALL Round(b#, answer$)
            PRINT b#, LTRIM$(RTRIM$(answer$))
            PRINT
            cnt = cnt + 4
            IF cnt > 40 THEN
               cnt = 0
               INPUT a$
            END IF
       NEXT i
    						
    The same screen formatting can be accomplished with Basic's PRINT USING statement. However, Basic has no direct means of storing this information in a string. The information can be sent to a Sequential file and then read back into string variables.

    You can also write the information to the screen and read this information using the SCREEN function. The SCREEN function returns the ASCII value of the specified screen location. Consider the following example:
       x# = 7.000000000000001D-02
       CLS
       LOCATE 1, 1
       PRINT USING "#################.##"; x#
       FOR i = 1 TO 20
       num = SCREEN(1, i)
       SELECT CASE num
         CASE ASC(".")
           number$ = number$ + "."
         CASE ASC("-")
           number$ = "-"
         CASE ASC("0") TO ASC("9")
           number$ = number$ + CHR$(num)
         CASE ELSE
       END SELECT
       NEXT i
       PRINT number$
    						
    The PRINT USING statement would display 17 spaces and then .07. The value of number$ would be .07.
  5. Does Microsoft plan to use Microsoft Binary Format (MBF) in future versions of Basic?

    At this time, there are no plans to return to MBF. The benefits of IEEE (interlanguage calling and coprocessor support) are far greater than those of MBF.

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Article ID: 35826 - Last Review: October 26, 2013 - Revision: 2.0
Keywords: 
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