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2.2.2 MIXAL directives

MIXAL instructions can be either one of the MIX machine instructions (see MIX instruction set) or one of the following assembly pseudoinstructions:


Sets the value of the memory address to which following instructions will be allocated after compilation.


Used to define a symbol’s value, e.g. SYM  EQU  2*200/3.


The value of the given expression is copied directly into the current memory address.


Takes as operand five characters, constituting the five bytes of a word which is copied directly into the current memory address.


Marks the end of the program. Its operand gives the start address for program execution.

The operand of ORIG, EQU, CON and END can be any expression evaluating to a constant MIX word, i.e., either a simple MIXAL expression (composed of numbers, symbols and binary operators, see Expressions) or a w-expression (see W-expressions).

All MIXAL programs must contain an END directive, with a twofold end: first, it marks the end of the assembler job, and, in the second place, its (mandatory) operand indicates the start address for the compiled program (that is, the address at which the virtual MIX machine must begin fetching instructions after loading the program). It is also very common (although not mandatory) to include at least an ORIG directive to mark the initial value of the assembler’s location counter (remember that it stores the address associated with each compiled MIX instruction). Thus, a minimal MIXAL program would be

          ORIG  2000    set the initial compilation adress
          NOP           this instruction will be loaded at adress 2000
          HLT           and this one at address 2001
          END   2000    end of program; start at address 2000
this line is not parsed by the assembler

The assembler will generate two binary instructions (NOP (+ 00 00 00 00 00) and HLT (+ 00 00 02 05)), which will be loaded at addresses 2000 and 2001. Execution of the program will begin at address 2000. Every MIXAL program should also include a HLT instruction, which will mark the end of program execution (but not of program compilation).

The EQU directive allows the definition of symbolic names for specific values. For instance, we could rewrite the above program as follows:

START     EQU   2000
          ORIG  START
          END   START

which would give rise to the same compiled code. Symbolic constants (or symbols, for short) can also be implicitly defined placing them in the LABEL field of a MIXAL instruction: in this case, the assembler assigns to the symbol the value of the location counter before compiling the line. Hence, a third way of writing our trivial program is

          ORIG  2000
          END   START

The CON directive allows you to directly specify the contents of the memory address pointed by the location counter. For instance, when the assembler encounters the following code snippet

          ORIG  1150
          CON   -1823473

it will assign to the memory cell number 1150 the contents - 00 06 61 11 49 (which corresponds to the decimal value -1823473).

Finally, the ALF directive let’s you specify the memory contents as a set of five (optionally quoted) characters, which are translated by the assembler to their byte values, conforming in that way the binary word that is to be stored in the corresponding memory cell. This directive comes in handy when you need to store printable messages in a memory address, as in the following example 8:

          OUT  MSG       MSG is not yet defined here (future reference)
MSG       ALF  "THIS "   MSG gets defined here
          ALF  "IS A "
          ALF  "MESSA"
          ALF  "GE.  "

The above snippet also shows the use of a future reference, that is, the usage of a symbol (MSG in the example) prior of its actual definition. The MIXAL assembler is able to handle future references subject to some limitations which are described in the following section (see Expressions).

Any line starting with an asterisk is treated as a comment and ignored by the assembler.

* This is a comment: this line is ignored.
    * This line is an error: * must be in column 1.

As noted in the previous section, comments can also be located after the OPERAND field of an instruction, separated from it by white space, as in

LABEL     LDA   100  This is also a comment

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