In the RAM model, you're allowed to do unbounded indirect access (pointers can be arbitrarily large and still fit in a single machine word).

In the Bit Complexity model (no wiki article, sorry), machine words are constant sized. So storing the address of an entry in a table of size $N$ would require $O(lg(N))$ words.

This raises the question: Are you even allowed to do a multi-word random access into a table of size $N$ when using the bit complexity model? It's a bit of a strange operation, because the machine can't "hold the jump in its head" while making it. On the other hand, it could be allowed but cost $O(lg(n))$ time instead of the RAM model's $O(1)$ time.

I realize that this is basically just a definition, with interesting things on either side, but I'm wondering what the common definition is. Is bit complexity just another way of saying "multi-tape turing machine"?

  • $\begingroup$ Why do you say "instead of $O(1)$ time"? Why would a multi-word random access be $O(1)$ time, when (if I understand you correctly) you said that a single-word random access takes $O(\lg N)$ time? $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Jul 15, 2014 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ Where do you get that $O(\log(n))$ limit from in your first sentence? There is no such limit described in the linked WP article, nor have I seen such a limit in other definitions of RAM. $\endgroup$
    – FrankW
    Jul 15, 2014 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps you should take a look at this: math.uni-leipzig.de/~diem/preprints/bitcomplexity.pdf. $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2014 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @D.W. I was contrasting it against the RAM model, where getting to items in a similarly sized table was cheap because the addresses fit into a word. $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2014 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @FrankW It was a misunderstanding between the size of allowed arithmetic and the size of allowed pointers. I've edited it. $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2014 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


According to Fürer's paper, the underlying complexity model is a Turing machine without random access, or equivalently, Boolean circuits. So no random access is allowed. Check also Diem's writeup on the subject.

  • $\begingroup$ Another source which is very careful regarding the model is the very recent arxiv.org/pdf/1407.3360v1.pdf, which proves a Fürer-type bound for integer multiplication with a simpler algorithm (and better constants). $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2014 at 2:50

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