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Why am I getting long decimals (eg, 19.9499999999999) instead of the numbers I should be getting (eg, 19.95)?

by faq_monk (Initiate)
on Oct 08, 1999 at 00:20 UTC ( #577=perlfaq nodetype: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Current Perl documentation can be found at perldoc.perl.org.

Here is our local, out-dated (pre-5.6) version:

The infinite set that a mathematician thinks of as the real numbers can only be approximate on a computer, since the computer only has a finite number of bits to store an infinite number of, um, numbers.

Internally, your computer represents floating-point numbers in binary. Floating-point numbers read in from a file or appearing as literals in your program are converted from their decimal floating-point representation (eg, 19.95) to the internal binary representation.

However, 19.95 can't be precisely represented as a binary floating-point number, just like 1/3 can't be exactly represented as a decimal floating-point number. The computer's binary representation of 19.95, therefore, isn't exactly 19.95.

When a floating-point number gets printed, the binary floating-point representation is converted back to decimal. These decimal numbers are displayed in either the format you specify with printf(), or the current output format for numbers (see $# if you use print. $# has a different default value in Perl5 than it did in Perl4. Changing $# yourself is deprecated.

This affects all computer languages that represent decimal floating-point numbers in binary, not just Perl. Perl provides arbitrary-precision decimal numbers with the Math::BigFloat module (part of the standard Perl distribution), but mathematical operations are consequently slower.

To get rid of the superfluous digits, just use a format (eg, printf("%.2f", 19.95)) to get the required precision. See Floating-point Arithmetic.

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