[Haskell-cafe] Int is broken [Was: Different answers on different machines]

Richard A. O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Wed Jun 5 06:22:25 CEST 2013

On 4/06/2013, at 4:22 PM, Rustom Mody wrote:

> On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 7:35 AM, Richard A. O'Keefe <ok at cs.otago.ac.nz> wrote:
> On 3/06/2013, at 6:58 PM, Carter Schonwald wrote:
> > If the Int type had either of these semantics by default, many many performance sensitive libraries would suddenly have substantially less compelling performance.  Every single operation that was branchless before would have a branch *every* operation..... this would be BAD.
> Actually, the x86 can be configured to trap integer overflows,
> so on that not entirely unpopular platform, there need be NO
> extra branches.
> Well yes and no. See http://software.intel.com/en-us/forums/topic/306156

I made a mistake, for which I apologise.
There were two things I wanted the x86 to trap, several years ago,
and I found that one of them *could* be trapped and the other could
not.  The one that couldn't was integer overflow.

I do note that the page cited answers a *different* question
which is "does the Intel COMPILER support integer overflow trapping."
The question I answered wrongly was "does the Intel HARDWARE support
integer overflow trapping (by raising an exception on integer
overflow if a bit is set in a certain control register)."

Having apologised for my error, I close with the observation that
Jacob Navia, developer of lcc-win32 (he started with the LCC compiler
but added serious x86-specific optimisation and other Windows goodness),
claims that sticking JO after signed integer operations adds very little
to run time because it is predicted very well by the branch prediction
hardware, since it is almost never taken.

> In Discipline of Programming (in 1976!) Dijkstra exactly described this problem, and squarely put the blame on poorly engineered machines.
> He introduced 3 concepts/terms:
> UM : unbounded machine
> SLM : sufficiently large machine
> HSLM : hopefully sufficiently large machine

Dijkstra was a Burroughs Research Fellow, and the B6700 was a textbook
example of an HSLM.  I couldn't believe how primitive other systems
were after using that.  The signed-integer-overflow-trapping C compiler
I mentioned was a MIPS one (MIPS distinguishing between ADD and ADDU, &c).

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