Keynote: William Kahan - Debugging Tools for Floating-Point Code

07/28/2021, 3:20 PM4:00 PM UTC


Debugging tools widely used for almost all other programs are inadequate for floating-point programs because these are so different. Suitable tools appeared in 1980 with IEEE Standard 754 for Floating-Point Hardware, but such tools have gone largely undemandeded by customers who pay for designers and implementors of languages and operating systems. These almost never support such tools. Their value has gone unappreciated. MAYBE A FEW EXAMPLES WILL CHANGE SOME MINDS.


William Kahan was instrumental in creating the IEEE 754-1985 standard for floating-point computation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He developed a program called “paranoia’ in the 1980s to test for potential floating point bugs and developed the Kahan summation algorithm which helps minimize errors introduced when adding a sequence of finite precision floating-point numbers. Kahan won the ACM A.M. Turing Award in 1989.

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