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Compiler intrinsics

Compiler intrinsics are functions provided by the compiler. They enable you to easily incorporate domain-specific operations in C and C++ source code without resorting to complex implementations in assembly language.

The C and C++ languages are suited to a wide variety of tasks but they do not provide in-built support for specific areas of application, for example, Digital Signal Processing (DSP).

Within a given application domain, there is usually a range of domain-specific operations that have to be performed frequently. However, often these operations cannot be efficiently implemented in C or C++. A typical example is the saturated add of two 32-bit signed two’s complement integers, commonly used in DSP programming. The following example shows a C implementation of saturated add operation

#include <limits.h>
int L_add(const int a, const int b)
    int c;
    c = a + b;
    if (((a ^ b) & INT_MIN) == 0)
        if ((c ^ a) & INT_MIN)
            c = (a < 0) ? INT_MIN : INT_MAX;
    return c;

Using compiler intrinsics, you can achieve more complete coverage of target architecture instructions than you would from the instruction selection of the compiler.

An intrinsic function has the appearance of a function call in C or C++, but is replaced during compilation by a specific sequence of low-level instructions. When implemented using an intrinsic, for example, the saturated add function previous example has the form:

#include <dspfns.h>    /* Include ETSI intrinsics */
int a, b, result;
result = L_add(a, b);  /* Saturated add of a and b */
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