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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

A statistical study of the accuracy of floating point number systems

This paper presents the statistical results of tests of the accuracy of certain arithmetic systems in evaluating sums, products and inner products, and analytic error estimates for some of the computations. The arithmetic systems studied are 6-digit hexadecimal and 22-digit binary floating point number representations combined with the usual chop and round modes of arithmetic with various numbers of guard digits, and with a modified round mode with guard digits. In a certain sense, arithmetic systems differing only in their use of binary or hexadecimal number representations are shown to be approximately statistically equivalent in accuracy. Further, the usual round mode with guard digits is shown to be statistically superior in accuracy to the usual chop mode in all cases save one. The modified round mode is found to be superior to the chop mode in all cases.

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