Weird behavior of numbers in as3

My colleague Bram de Jong at splicemusic did some tests with number types in arrays to find out, if we can save memory somehow. However his findings are rather not expected that way. Numbers can loose their type in an irreproducible way.

So lets try:

trace( getQualifiedClassName( uint( 0 ) ) ); // int
trace( '28bits', getQualifiedClassName( uint( 0x0fffffff ) ) ); // int
trace( '29bits', getQualifiedClassName( uint( 0x1fffffff ) ) ); // Number

Above all check this:

			var num: uint;

			for( var i: int = 0 ; i < 64 ; i++ )
				num = 1 << i;

				trace( i, getQualifiedClassName( num ) );

From 0 to 27 it is int
From 28 to 31 it is Number
From 32 to 59 it is int (again)
From 60 to 63 it is Number (again)

The disadvantage of this is that Numbers are slower in computation as well as reading, writing in an Array. And however it doesn't make any sense at all. Bram has already sent a note to adobe. I'll keep you updated.

8 thoughts on “Weird behavior of numbers in as3”

  1. Someone @ Adobe writes us back the explanation:

    The AS3 VM uses 32-bit Atom formats to store various types. 3-bits of the Atom describe the type data, leaving 29-bits for actual data. In some cases, like null/undefined/void/etc, we use 3-bits plus a few more bits to define the type.

    For signed integers, we have 28-bits to work with plus a sign bit. For unsigned integers we have 29-bits (or maybe 28 with the upper bit always zero?). Once your number gets larger than 28/29 bits, we dynamically switch it to a Number Atom type, which contains a 3-bit type value with a 29-bit ptr. All ptrs are 8-BYTE aligned so we get away with using 29-bits there.

    All three formats are basically interchangeable. When storing a number in an Atom, we see if it’s an integer and fits within the 28/29 bits. If so, we store it as a int/uint value – otherwise we store it as a Number value.

    Which, sadly enough makes total sense and is a bit of a bummer for us…

  2. Speaking of weird number behavior.. What is going on here?

    var n:Number = 2374;



  3. Hey thanks for the article! I’m trying to get the decimal part out of a Number. I was just trying to narrow down the bits that store the decimal part so I did the following and got 0. Now I’m stuck.

    trace( 1.23 & 2.23 );//0

    Any suggestions?

  4. Hi guys,

    I have posted this on Grant Skinner’s blog as well, but seeing as how he referred to this blog post, I might as well share my findings here:

    Interestingly, I believe that the exact numeric type being used can be determined through a performance test, using an Object as a hash map:

    var hashMap:Object = new Object();
    var time:int = getTimer();
    for( var i:int = 0; i < 1000000; i++ )
    hashMap[ 1 << 27 ] = "blah";
    trace( getTimer() – time );

    If the key's value is between 0 (inclusive) and 1 << 27 (inclusive), this loop takes 35 ms on my hardware. Otherwise (e.g. change 1 << 27 to 1 << 28), it takes a 150 ms.

    This leads me to believe that, above 1 << 27 (and below 0), Numbers are used instead of integers.

    What surprises me, though, is that 1 << 27 has its first bit set to 1 and the other 27 bits set to 0. Why couldn't ActionScript set all these bits to 1, reaching a value almost twice as great, before switching to the bigger Number type?

    Additionally, why are the integer's negative values not used? Why does ActionScript use a Number for valid negative integer values such as -17?

    I realize that some (or even all?) of these occurences may apply purely to Object keys rather than to integers in general.

    Could anybody share more insight?

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