Fixed-Point Representation



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Positive integers, including zero, can be represented as unsigned numbers. However, to represent negative integers, we need a notation for negative values. In ordinary arithmetic, a negative number is indicated by a minus sign and a positive number by a plus sign. Because of hardware limitations, computers must represent everything with 1's and D's, including the sign of a number. As a consequence, it is customary to represent the sign with a bit placed in the leftmost position of the number. The convention is to make the sign bit equal to 0 for positive and to 1 for negative.

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In addition to the sign, a number may have a binary (or decimal) point. The position of the binary point is needed to represent fractions, integers, or mixed integer-fraction numbers. The representation of the binary point in a register is complicated by the fact that it is characterized by a position in the register. There are two ways of specifying the position of the binary point in a register: by giving it a fixed position or by employing a floating-point representation. The fixed-point method assumes that the binary point is always fixed in one position. The two positions most widely used are (1) a binary point in the extreme left of the register to make the stored number a fraction, and (2) a binary point in the extreme right of the register to make the stored number an integer. In either case, the binary point is not actually present, but its presence is assumed from the fact that the number stored in the register is treated as a fraction or as an integer. The floating-point representation uses a second register to store a number that designates the position of the decimal point in the first register. Floating-point r.epresentation is discussed further in the next section


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