In computer hardware, floating point numbers are usually represented with a radix of two since the mantissa and exponent are stored in binary, though many different representations could be used. The IEEE specify a standard representation which is used by many hardware floating-point systems. Non-zero numbers are normalised so that the binary point is immediately before the most significant bit of the mantissa. Since the number is non-zero, this bit must be a one so it need not be stored. A fixed "bias" is added to the exponent so that positive and negative exponents can be represented without a sign bit. Finally, extreme values of exponent (all zeros and all ones) are used to represent special numbers like zero and positive and negative infinity.
(01 Nov 2006)
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