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The subject of floating-point arithmetic is much more complex than many programmers seem to think, and few books on programming languages spend much time in that area. In this chapter, we have tried to expose the reader to some of the key ideas, and to warn of easily overlooked pitfalls that can soon lead to nonsensical results. There are a few good references that we recommend for further reading, and for finding other important material about computer arithmetic:

We include URLs for these references when we were given them, when they are morally legitimate to recommend; we have omitted the URLs that are paywalled or that require running nonfree JavaScript code in order to function. We hope you can find morally legitimate sites where you can access these works.

- Paul H. Abbott and 15 others, Architecture and software support
in IBM S/390 Parallel Enterprise Servers for IEEE Floating-Point
arithmetic, IBM Journal of Research and Development
**43**(5/6) 723–760 (1999), This article gives a good description of IBM’s algorithm for exact decimal-to-binary conversion, complementing earlier ones by Clinger and others. - Nelson H. F. Beebe, The Mathematical-Function Computation Handbook: Programming Using the MathCW Portable Software Library, Springer (2017). This book describes portable implementations of a large superset of the mathematical functions available in many programming languages, extended to a future 256-bit format (70 decimal digits), for both binary and decimal floating point. It includes a substantial portion of the functions described in the famous NIST Handbook of Mathematical Functions, Cambridge (2018), ISBN 0-521-19225-0. See https://www.math.utah.edu/pub/mathcw/ for compilers and libraries.
- William D. Clinger, How to Read Floating Point Numbers
Accurately, ACM SIGPLAN Notices
**25**(6) 92–101 (June 1990), https://doi.org/10.1145/93548.93557. See also the papers by Steele & White. - I. Bennett Goldberg, 27 Bits Are Not Enough For 8-Digit Accuracy,
Communications of the ACM
**10**(2) 105–106 (February 1967), https://doi.acm.org/10.1145/363067.363112. This paper, and its companions by David Matula, address the base-conversion problem, and show that the naive formulas are wrong by one or two digits. - David Goldberg, What Every Computer Scientist Should Know
About Floating-Point Arithmetic, ACM Computing Surveys
**23**(1) 5–58 (March 1991), corrigendum**23**(3) 413 (September 1991), https://doi.org/10.1145/103162.103163. This paper has been widely distributed, and reissued in vendor programming-language documentation. It is well worth reading, and then rereading from time to time. - Norbert Juffa and Nelson H. F. Beebe, A Bibliography of Publications on Floating-Point Arithmetic, https://www.math.utah.edu/pub/tex/bib/fparith.bib. This is the largest known bibliography of publications about floating-point, and also integer, arithmetic. It is actively maintained, and in mid 2019, contains more than 6400 references to original research papers, reports, theses, books, and Web sites on the subject matter. It can be used to locate the latest research in the field, and the historical coverage dates back to a 1726 paper on signed-digit arithmetic, and an 1837 paper by Charles Babbage, the intellectual father of mechanical computers. The entries for the Abbott, Clinger, and Steele & White papers cited earlier contain pointers to several other important related papers on the base-conversion problem.
- William Kahan, Branch Cuts for Complex Elementary Functions, or Much Ado About Nothing’s Sign Bit, (1987), https://people.freebsd.org/~das/kahan86branch.pdf. This Web document about the fine points of complex arithmetic also appears in the volume edited by A. Iserles and M. J. D. Powell, The State of the Art in Numerical Analysis: Proceedings of the Joint IMA/SIAM Conference on the State of the Art in Numerical Analysis held at the University of Birmingham, 14–18 April 1986, Oxford University Press (1987), ISBN 0-19-853614-3 (xiv + 719 pages). Its author is the famous chief architect of the IEEE 754 arithmetic system, and one of the world’s greatest experts in the field of floating-point arithmetic. An entire generation of his students at the University of California, Berkeley, have gone on to careers in academic and industry, spreading the knowledge of how to do floating-point arithmetic right.
- Donald E. Knuth, A Simple Program Whose Proof Isn’t, in Beauty is our business: a birthday salute to Edsger W. Dijkstra, W. H. J. Feijen, A. J. M. van Gasteren, D. Gries, and J. Misra (eds.), Springer (1990), ISBN 1-4612-8792-8, This book chapter supplies a correctness proof of the decimal to binary, and binary to decimal, conversions in fixed-point arithmetic in the TeX typesetting system. The proof evaded its author for a dozen years.
- David W. Matula, In-and-out conversions,
Communications of the ACM
**11**(1) 57–50 (January 1968), https://doi.org/10.1145/362851.362887. - David W. Matula, The Base Conversion Theorem,
Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society
**19**(3) 716–723 (June 1968). See also other papers here by this author, and by I. Bennett Goldberg. - David W. Matula, A Formalization of Floating-Point Numeric
Base Conversion, IEEE Transactions on Computers
**C-19**(8) 681–692 (August 1970), - Jean-Michel Muller and eight others, Handbook of Floating-Point Arithmetic, Birkhäuser-Boston (2010), ISBN 0-8176-4704-X (xxiii + 572 pages). This is a comprehensive treatise from a French team who are among the world’s greatest experts in floating-point arithmetic, and among the most prolific writers of research papers in that field. They have much to teach, and their book deserves a place on the shelves of every serious numerical programmer.
- Jean-Michel Muller and eight others, Handbook of Floating-Point Arithmetic, Second edition, Birkhäuser-Boston (2018), ISBN 3-319-76525-6 (xxv + 627 pages). This is a new edition of the preceding entry.
- Michael Overton, Numerical Computing with IEEE Floating Point Arithmetic, Including One Theorem, One Rule of Thumb, and One Hundred and One Exercises, SIAM (2001), ISBN 0-89871-482-6 (xiv + 104 pages), This is a small volume that can be covered in a few hours.
- Guy L. Steele Jr. and Jon L. White, How to Print
Floating-Point Numbers Accurately, ACM SIGPLAN Notices
**25**(6) 112–126 (June 1990), https://doi.org/10.1145/93548.93559. See also the papers by Clinger. - Guy L. Steele Jr. and Jon L. White, Retrospective: How to
Print Floating-Point Numbers Accurately, ACM SIGPLAN Notices
**39**(4) 372–389 (April 2004), Reprint of 1990 paper, with additional commentary. - Pat H. Sterbenz, Floating Point Computation, Prentice-Hall
(1974), ISBN 0-13-322495-3 (xiv + 316 pages). This often-cited book
provides solid coverage of what floating-point arithmetic was like
*before*the introduction of IEEE 754 arithmetic.

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