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\section{The Alpha Back End}

\subsection{Trap Shadows, Floating Exceptions, and Denormalized Numbers on the DEC Alpha}

  \emph{By Andrew W. Appel and Lal George, Nov 28, 1995}

  See section 4.7.5.1 of the \emph{Alpha Architecture Reference Manual}.

  The Alpha has imprecise exceptions, meaning that if a floating
  point instruction raises an IEEE exception, the exception may
  not interrupt the processor until several successive instructions have
  completed.  ML, on the other hand, may want a "precise" model
  of floating point exceptions.

  Furthermore, the Alpha hardware does not support denormalized numbers
  (for ``gradual underflow'').  Instead, underflow always rounds to zero.
  However, each floating operation (add, mult, etc.) has a trapping
  variant that will raise an exception (imprecisely, of course) on
  underflow; in that case, the instruction will produce a zero result
  AND an exception will occur.  In fact, there are several variants
  of each instruction; three variants of MULT are:
\begin{description}
 \item[MULT  s1,s2,d]  truncate denormalized result to zero; no exception
 \item[MULT/U  s1,s2,d] truncate denormalized result to zero; raise UNDERFLOW
 \item[MULT/SU  s1,s2,d]  software completion, producing denormalized result
\end{description}

  The hardware treats the \verb|MULT/U| and \verb|MULT/SU| 
  instructions identically,
  truncating a denormalized result to zero and raising the UNDERFLOW
  exception.  But the operating system, on an UNDERFLOW exception,
  examines the faulting instruction to see if it's an \verb|/SU| 
  form, and if so,
  recalculates \verb|s1*s2|, puts the right answer in \verb|d|, and continues,
  all without invoking the user's signal handler.

  Because most machines compute with denormalized numbers in hardware,
  to maximize portability of SML programs, we use the \verb|MULT/SU| form.
  (and \verb|ADD/SU|, \verb|SUB/SU|, etc.)  But to use this form successfully,
  certain rules have to be followed.  Basically, d cannot be the same
  register as s1 or s2, because the opsys needs to be able to 
  recalculate the operation using the original contents of s1 and s2,
  and the MULT/SU instruction will overwrite d even if it traps.

  More generally, we may want to have a sequence of floating-point
  instructions.  The rules for such a sequence are:

  1. The sequence should end with a \verb|TRAPB| (trap barrier) instruction.
     (This could be relaxed somewhat, but certainly a \verb|TRAPB| would
      be a good idea sometime before the next branch instruction or
      update of an ML reference variable, or any other ML side effect.)
  2. No instruction in the sequence should destroy any operand of itself
     or of any previous instruction in the sequence.
  3. No two instructions in the sequence should write the same destination
     register.

  We can achieve these conditions by the following trick in the
  Alpha code generator.  Each instruction in the sequence will write
  to a different temporary; this is guaranteed by the translation from
  ML-RISC.  At the beginning of the sequence, we will put a special
  pseudo-instruction (we call it \verb|DEFFREG|) that ``defines'' 
   the destination
  register of the arithmetic instruction.  If there are $K$ arithmetic
  instructions in the sequence, then we'll insert $K$ 
   \verb|DEFFREG| instructions
  all at the beginning of the sequence.
  Then, each arithop will not only ``define'' its destination temporary
  but will ``use'' it as well.  When all these instructions are fed to
  the liveness analyzer, the resulting interference graph will then
  have inteference edges satisfying conditions 2 and 3 above.

  Of course, \verb|DEFFREG| doesn't actually generate any code.  In our model
  of the Alpha, every instruction generates exactly 4 bytes of code
  except the ``span-dependent'' ones.  Therefore, we'll specify \verb|DEFFREG|
  as a span-dependent instruction whose minimum and maximum sizes are zero.

  At the moment, we do not group arithmetic operations into sequences;
  that is, each arithop will be preceded by a single \verb|DEFFREG| and
  followed by a \verb|TRAPB|.  To avoid the cost of all those \verb|TRAPB|'s, 
  we should improve this when we have time.  Warning:  Don't put more 
  than 31 instructions in the sequence, because they're all required
  to write to different destination registers!  

  What about multiple traps?  For example, suppose a sequence of
  instructions produces an Overflow and  a Divide-by-Zero exception?
  ML would like to know only about the earliest trap, but the hardware
  will report \emph{BOTH} traps to the operating system.  However, as long
  as the rules above are followed (and the software-completion versions
  of the arithmetic instructions are used), the operating system will
  have enough information to know which instruction produced the
  trap.  It is very probable that the operating system will report \emph{ONLY}
  the earlier trap to the user process, but I'm not sure.

  For a hint about what the operating system is doing in its own
  trap-handler (with software completion), see section 6.3.2 of
  ``\emph{OpenVMS Alpha Software}'' (Part II of the Alpha Architecture
  Manual).  This stuff should apply to Unix (OSF1) as well as VMS.

root@smlnj-gforge.cs.uchicago.edu
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