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Subject: Re: Why is assembly more effecient than C?

Author: Dave Gomboc

Date: 00:32:45 09/30/98

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On September 29, 1998 at 11:13:24, Don Dailey wrote:

>On September 29, 1998 at 00:57:32, Dave Gomboc wrote:
>
>>On September 28, 1998 at 14:12:25, Robert Hyatt wrote:
>>
>>>On September 28, 1998 at 10:06:42, Jon Dart wrote:
>>>
>>>>
>>>>On September 28, 1998 at 09:17:09, Robert Hyatt wrote:
>>>>
>>>>>On September 28, 1998 at 03:01:19, Danniel Corbit wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>>On September 27, 1998 at 18:18:25, Robert Hyatt wrote:
>>>>>>[snip]
>>>>>>>not exactly.  IE I can't imagine that a C compiler + optimizer can beat
>>>>>>>hand-tuned asm code, even if I write both the C and the asm code.  The
>>>>>>>guys that write the optimizers are good, but they aren't as good as
>>>>>>>someone that has been programming asm code for 30 years...
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>The main reason everyone doesn't use ASM code is portability, *not*
>>>>>>>speed.
>>>>>>Risc C compilers can almost always outdo hand written code except for very small
>>>>>>snippets.  For CISC I agree with you, especially Intel x86, since there are so
>>>>>>many good Intel assembly programmers.  For thousands or millions of lines of C,
>>>>>>an equivalent ASM is very hard to produce for Risc machines.
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>The Intel processors now do many of the tricks that RISC processors have
>>>>traditionally done. It used to be that you could just get the processor manual,
>>>>add up the instruction times, and figure out how fast your code would run.
>>>>Now that's not true anymore. So writing optimal assembly language is
>>>>non-trivial, even for the Intel machines. (However, I would add that few
>>>>compilers do a really great job of register allocation - which is quite a bit
>>>>harder on Intel than other architectures - so that is one area where a human can
>>>>improve on the compiler).
>>>>
>>>>--Jon
>>>
>>>
>>>There are other things too.  IE how many chess programmers do an x=x*2.5 in
>>>their evaluation function?  None?  Better check out cray blitz.  And the reason
>>>is buried in the Cray architecture and how floating point stuff is done in
>>>parallel with integer stuff, so that I can do x=x*2 and y=y*2.0 in the same
>>>time it would take to do just x=x*2...  but the compilers don't know whether
>>>you can take a float and use it as an int, or vice-versa, while *I* do because
>>>I know how the number will be used later, and where the important part of the
>>>number is (whole or fraction or both).  The compiler *always* has to be
>>>conservative and once it has a float, it has to stick with a float to avoid
>>>losing those fractional bits, even when they will be zero (but it can't know
>>>that of course.)
>>>
>>>That's the point.  I *know* *all* about the program and the values it is
>>>computing.  The compiler doesn't...
>>
>>I think that if somebody had enough time to write it all in assembly, they might
>>do a better job than a top-notch compiler.  That's a pretty big if though, it
>>might take a lot longer than a human lifespan.  Anyway, I think more often the
>>compiler will be better.  If I may make an analogy :), let's use computer chess.
>
>Actually, you are wrong here.  Fritz is just one example of a carefully
>coded machine program.  I have talked to Franz and he understands all
>the instruction scheduling issues for each processor he writes for.
>And he specifically targets an individual platform, something that is
>commonly available but near the cutting edge.  That is why he rewrites
>relatively frequently.
>
>I have written programs entirely in assembly too (but not the interface)
>It is more tedious, but not more difficult (if that makes any sense.)
>My impressions are that it really doesn't take much longer at all to
>write code but debugging gets harder.  This assumes you have already
>developed some proficiency in assembler and have good tools.  One other
>issue is that c has libraries of routines already available but so can
>assembly.  Most of these libraries will not affect a chess program very
>much but will affect the interface, which will be written in some high
>level language if you are wise!
>
>The other issue of course is understanding instruction scheduling,
>timing issues and caching issues.
>With modern processors it gets harder to match a compilers ability
>to do these things. But if you understand the issues well you can do
>much better and it will not take even close to a lifetime.
>
>You would be surprised that something that seems so complicated is
>not really once you break it down and learn to understand the issues.
>
>- Don
>
>
>---- I snipped the rest -----

I didn't convey my thoughts clearly enough, I was not suggesting that
implementing a chess program in assembly would take a lifetime.  When I wrote
the first statements I was thinking about the 5 million lines of C++
megaprojects out there.

If the human assembler has so much more expertise than the machine assembler,
instead of hand-coding the end software, perhaps the human assembler should be
"educating" the machine assembler.

Dave Gomboc



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