[Numpy-discussion] Questions about the array interface.

Travis Oliphant oliphant at ee.byu.edu
Sat Apr 9 09:55:04 EDT 2005

konrad.hinsen at laposte.net wrote:

> On 09.04.2005, at 01:04, Scott Gilbert wrote:
>> I think something we've been assuming is that the array data is  
>> basically
>> IEEE-754 compliant (maybe it needs to be byteswapped).  If that's 
>> not  true,
>> then we're going to need some new typecodes.  We're not supporting the
>> ability to pass VAX floating point around (Are we????).

No, in moving from the struct modules character codes we are trying to 
do something more platform independent because it is very likely that 
different platforms will want to exchange binary data.   IEEE-754 is a 
great standard to build an interface around.   Data sharing was the 
whole reason the standard emerged and a lot of companies got on board.

> This discussion has been coming up regularly for a few years. Until 
> now  the concensus has always been that Python should make no 
> assumptions  that go beyond what a C compiler can promise. Which means 
> no  assumptions about floating-point representation.
> Of course the computing world is changing, and IEEE format may well 
> be  ubiquitous by now. Vaxes must be in the museum by now. But how 
> about  mainframes? IBM mainframes didn't use IEEE when I used them 
> (last time  15 years ago), and they are still around, possibly 
> compatible to their  ancestors.

I found the following piece, written about 6 years ago interesting:


Basically, it states that chips in newer IBM mainframes support the IEEE 
754 standard.

> Another detail to consider is that although most machines use the 
> IEEE  representation, hardly any respects the IEEE rules for floating 
> point  operations in all detail. In particular, trusting that Inf and 
> NaN will  be treated as IEEE postulates is a risky business.

But, this can be handled with platform-dependendent C-code when and if 
problems arise.  


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