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gawk: Setting the rounding mode

 
 15.4.5 Setting the Rounding Mode
 --------------------------------
 
 The 'ROUNDMODE' variable provides program-level control over the
 rounding mode.  The correspondence between 'ROUNDMODE' and the IEEE
 rounding modes is shown in ⇒Table 15.4 table-gawk-rounding-modes.
 
 Rounding mode                    IEEE name              'ROUNDMODE'
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Round to nearest, ties to even   'roundTiesToEven'      '"N"' or '"n"'
 Round toward positive infinity   'roundTowardPositive'  '"U"' or '"u"'
 Round toward negative infinity   'roundTowardNegative'  '"D"' or '"d"'
 Round toward zero                'roundTowardZero'      '"Z"' or '"z"'
 Round to nearest, ties away      'roundTiesToAway'      '"A"' or '"a"'
 from zero
 
 Table 15.4: 'gawk' rounding modes
 
    'ROUNDMODE' has the default value '"N"', which selects the IEEE 754
 rounding mode 'roundTiesToEven'.  In ⇒(gawk)the value '"A"' selects 'roundTiesToAway' the value '"A"' selects 'roundTiesToAway'.
 This is only available if your version of the MPFR library supports it;
 otherwise, setting 'ROUNDMODE' to '"A"' has no effect.
 
    The default mode 'roundTiesToEven' is the most preferred, but the
 least intuitive.  This method does the obvious thing for most values, by
 rounding them up or down to the nearest digit.  For example, rounding
 1.132 to two digits yields 1.13, and rounding 1.157 yields 1.16.
 
    However, when it comes to rounding a value that is exactly halfway
 between, things do not work the way you probably learned in school.  In
 this case, the number is rounded to the nearest even digit.  So rounding
 0.125 to two digits rounds down to 0.12, but rounding 0.6875 to three
 digits rounds up to 0.688.  You probably have already encountered this
 rounding mode when using 'printf' to format floating-point numbers.  For
 example:
 
      BEGIN {
          x = -4.5
          for (i = 1; i < 10; i++) {
              x += 1.0
              printf("%4.1f => %2.0f\n", x, x)
          }
      }
 
 produces the following output when run on the author's system:(1)
 
      -3.5 => -4
      -2.5 => -2
      -1.5 => -2
      -0.5 => 0
       0.5 => 0
       1.5 => 2
       2.5 => 2
       3.5 => 4
       4.5 => 4
 
    The theory behind 'roundTiesToEven' is that it more or less evenly
 distributes upward and downward rounds of exact halves, which might
 cause any accumulating round-off error to cancel itself out.  This is
 the default rounding mode for IEEE 754 computing functions and
 operators.
 
    The other rounding modes are rarely used.  Rounding toward positive
 infinity ('roundTowardPositive') and toward negative infinity
 ('roundTowardNegative') are often used to implement interval arithmetic,
 where you adjust the rounding mode to calculate upper and lower bounds
 for the range of output.  The 'roundTowardZero' mode can be used for
 converting floating-point numbers to integers.  The rounding mode
 'roundTiesToAway' rounds the result to the nearest number and selects
 the number with the larger magnitude if a tie occurs.
 
    Some numerical analysts will tell you that your choice of rounding
 style has tremendous impact on the final outcome, and advise you to wait
 until final output for any rounding.  Instead, you can often avoid
 round-off error problems by setting the precision initially to some
 value sufficiently larger than the final desired precision, so that the
 accumulation of round-off error does not influence the outcome.  If you
 suspect that results from your computation are sensitive to accumulation
 of round-off error, look for a significant difference in output when you
 change the rounding mode to be sure.
 
    ---------- Footnotes ----------
 
    (1) It is possible for the output to be completely different if the C
 library in your system does not use the IEEE 754 even-rounding rule to
 round halfway cases for 'printf'.
 
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