Next floating point number

Tim Peters tim.peters at
Sun Dec 18 18:28:12 CET 2005

[Steven D'Aprano]
> ...
> Will Python always use 64-bit floats?

A CPython "float" is whatever the platform C compiler means by
"double".  The C standard doesn't define the size of a double, so
neither does Python define the size of a float.

That said, I don't know of any Python platform to date where a C
double was not 64 bits.  It's even possible that all _current_ Python
platforms use exactly the same format for C double.(the IEEE-754
double format), modulo endianness.

There's a subtlety related to that in my pack/unpack code, BTW:  using
a ">d" format forces `struct` to use a "standard" big-endian double
encoding, which is 64 bits, regardless of how the platform C stores
doubles and regardless of how many bytes a native C double occupies. 
So, oddly enough, the pack/unpack code would work even if the platform
C double used some, e.g., non-IEEE 4-byte VAX float encoding.  The
only real docs about this "standard" encoding are in Python's
pickletools module:

float8 = ArgumentDescriptor(
             doc="""An 8-byte binary representation of a float, big-endian.

             The format is unique to Python, and shared with the struct
             module (format string '>d') "in theory" (the struct and cPickle
             implementations don't share the code -- they should).  It's
             strongly related to the IEEE-754 double format, and, in normal
             cases, is in fact identical to the big-endian 754 double format.
             On other boxes the dynamic range is limited to that of a 754
             double, and "add a half and chop" rounding is used to reduce
             the precision to 53 bits.  However, even on a 754 box,
             infinities, NaNs, and minus zero may not be handled correctly
             (may not survive roundtrip pickling intact).

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