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Programming (Assembly Language)

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While the days when assembly language programming was widely used in computer science are long since gone, this programming language still helps computer science majors understand practical concepts of computers such as what a registry is and how they are used. In an X86 environment it exists in two types of syntax: Intel and AT&T. Because it uses a symbolic designation of programming elements instead of machine code, assembly programming is considered to be a low-level language, compared with other traditional computer languages such as C and Java. Modern compilers commonly use functions that have already been written and optimized in assembly programming (like memmove, memset/fillchar, etc.). This is the main reason why the language isn't widely used today.

One advantage of assembly language programming has to do with its use in increasing the running speed of programs. Should an algorithm be optimally complex, we can choose to write instructions using assembly language in order to achieve faster execution times, as computer programs optimized using assembly language are proven to have execution speeds five to ten times faster than those written in C or Pascal. In addition to this, the executable code size is very small, making it easier for users to both understand how the microprocessor works and write efficient programs using higher level languages. There is also the possibility of embedding assembly code through low level instructions, as current compilers allow programmers to write code or sub-parts using assembly language. In these cases, programmers can often write part of the program to run in assembly only, which leads to faster run times. For example, in order to write a sequence of assembly language in a C program we have to use the asm reserved word like this:

C code
asm { assembly instructions };
C code

Assembly language is not without its disadvantages. It is not portable, meaning an application written for an IBM PC won't run on an Apple Macintosh. In addition, a program in assembly language is more difficult to write and takes more time than a program written in Pascal or C; it will also be harder to debug.

A typical assembly language programming course may involve any combination of the following topics:

• processor structure from the Intel family
• multitasking, segmentation, paging, cache, interruptions, registry types
• operators, labels, segments
• instruction transfer to C /Pascal
• instructions and addressing methods
• instruction sets
• arithmetical instructions
• bit and array instructions
• transfer instructions
• parameter transfers

An up-to-date collection regarding assembly language programming can be found in the International Journal of Computer Engineering Research as well as in the Guide to Assembly Language Programming in Linux.
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