Porting from 32-bit systems: 16-bit constants

I recently ran in to an issue at my day job where I had to write some time functions for a project. My work system did not have <time.h> and related functions like gmtime(), which I needed.

Unfortunately, once I implemented my version of gmtime() routine (based on some code I found online), I found it did not work on my target system. Testing on a PC using GNU-C worked fine, so I expected it had something to do with the code not being written for systems with 16-bit “ints” — like the Arduino.

I narrowed down the problematic code, and used the Arduino to test it. Here is the sample:

#define SECS_DAY          (24*60*60)

void setup()
{
  long           time;
  unsigned long  dayclock;

  Serial.begin(9600);

  time =   1396342111;

  dayclock = (unsigned long)time % SECS_DAY;

  Serial.println(time);
  Serial.println(dayclock);
}

void loop()
{
}

On the PC, dayclock would print as 31711. On an Arduino, it would print as 18911. Initially I just tried to cast things to “unsigned long” but that did nothing. When I realized my mistake, I felt rather dumb since I learned this long ago.

Numeric constants, like that #define, are treated as “int” values meaning that on the PC (where int is 32-bits) they were different than on my target system (where int is 16-bit).

When dealing with long constants, you add “L” to the number like this:

#define THISISANINT 123456
#define THISISALONG 123456L

To fix my problem, all I did was throw in the Ls:

#define SECS_DAY          (24L*60L*60L)

The code I used as reference was written by someone who probably only considered it running on machines with 32-bit ints. Most desktop (PC/Mac/etc.) programmers tend to code this way.

Maybe this reminder will help someone else as they try to port code to an Arduino project.

Side note: Rather than use “int” and “long”, if you use a new enough compiler (C99 standard), include and use the actual type you want, such as uint8_t, uint16_t, or uint32_t. As you can see, “int” on the PC would be 32-bits, and “int” on Arduino (or MSP430, or…) would be 16-bits. It’s not portable code that way, and the C standard has finally solved this challenge.

Here’s another example for you to try… It should print out 86400 (24*60*60), which it does on a PC/32-bit system, but not on a system where ints are 16-bits. Have fun!

// This will fail (ints, 16-bit)
#define SECS_DAY  (24*60*60)

// This works (longs, 32-bit)
//#define SECS_DAY  (24L*60L*60L)

void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);

  Serial.println(SECS_DAY);
}

void loop()
{
}

 

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