Is there any generic algorithm which implements a floating point radix conversion?

Lets say we have a $p$-digit FP number

$A = \sum_{i=0}^{p-1} A_i \beta^{e-i}$

in radix $\beta$ and with $0 \leq A_i < \beta$.

How do we find the $A'_i$, $e'$ values for the $p'$-digit base $\gamma$ FP number

$A' = \sum_{i=0}^{p'-1} A'_i \gamma^{e'-i}$

closest to $A$?

There is one question which explicitly asks about radix 2 to radix 10 conversion, but unfortunately the answers seem to be specific for these radix combination. Here I ask about the general case.

Also is an intermediate arbitrary precision FP calculation really necessary? (as in the function strtod in David Gay's dtoa.c)

  • $\begingroup$ Except $A$ and $A'$, do all other variables taking integer values only? Are $p'$ and $\gamma$ given? $\endgroup$
    – John L.
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


In the worst case, you may need very high precision intermediate results. If your problem is limited, for example p ≤ 50 and e ≤ 1,000, it will be possible to prove how much precision is needed at most - with $1000 \cdot 10^{50}$ possible values to convert, 200 bits precision are likely enough.

In practice, some values can be calculated with correct rounding by calculating them with a single floating point operation with exact operands. Many other values can be calculated rounded correctly (including proof) with just a bit of extra precision. So you can do the calculation with relatively few extra bits of precision, check if you have a proven correctly rounded result, and do the same calculation with more bits if needed.

Example: 10.00073 = 1,000,073 / 100,000 Is the quotient of two exact numbers and therefore correctly rounded. 1e30 = 1e15 x 1e15 = product of two exact numbers. 1,000,000,000,000,000,123,456,789,012,345 = FMA (1e15,1e15, 123,456,789,012,344) = fused multiply-add of there exact numbers.


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