Floating point
Floating point is a numeric system for approximating real numbers. Each floating-point number stores some digits and an exponent (plus a sign, which is either 1 or -1) taking the form
- value = sign × digits × RADIX^{exponent}
This design uses a constant RADIX and limits the maximum number of digits. Calculations are fast but inexact, because the limit on digits causes round-off errors. It should be noted that, with an appropriate exponent, a floating point number can represent a substantial range of integers exactly (though less than the range that could fit in the same space with a “pure” integer).
The most common floating-point formats in modern practice are those based on the IEEE 754 standard, in particular with the RADIX being 2, and the digits and exponent being a fixed number of binary digits that fit (together with the sign) in a piece of memory of size 32 bits (4 bytes, float
) or 64 bits (8 bytes, double
).