Reasons for not using assembly code

There are so many disadvantages and problems involved in assembly programming that it is advisable to consider the alternatives before deciding to use assembly code for a particular task. The most important reasons for not using assembly programming are:

1. Development time : Writing code in assembly language takes much longer time than in a high level language.

2. Reliability and security : It is easy to make errors in assembly code. The assembler is not checking if the calling conventions and register save conventions are obeyed. Nobody is checking for you if the number of PUSH and POP instructions is the same in
all possible branches and paths. There are so many possibilities for hidden errors in assembly code that it affects the reliability and security of the project unless you have a very systematic approach to testing and verifying.

3. Debugging and verifying : Assembly code is more difficult to debug and verify because there are more possibilities for errors than in high level code.

4. Maintainability : Assembly code is more difficult to modify and maintain because the language allows unstructured spaghetti code and all kinds of dirty tricks that are difficult for others to understand. Thorough documentation and a consistent programming style is needed.

5. System code can use intrinsic functions instead of assembly : The best modern C++ compilers have intrinsic functions for accessing system control registers and other system instructions. Assembly code is no longer needed for device drivers and other system code when intrinsic functions are available.

6. Application code can use intrinsic functions or vector classes instead of assembly: The best modern C++ compilers have intrinsic functions for vector operations and other special instructions that previously required assembly programming. It is no longer necessary to use old fashioned assembly code to take advantage of the Single-Instruction-Multiple-Data (SIMD)  instructions.

7. Portability: Assembly code is very platform-specific. Porting to a different platform is difficult. Code that uses intrinsic functions instead of assembly are portable to all x86 and x86-64 platforms.

8. Compilers have been improved a lot in recent years : The best compilers are now better than the average assembly programmer in many situations.

9. Compiled code may be faster than assembly code because compilers can make inter-procedural optimization and whole-program optimization : The assembly programmer usually has to make well-defined functions with a well-defined call interface that obeys all calling conventions in order to make the code testable and verifiable. This prevents many of the optimization methods that compilers use, such as function inlining, register allocation, constant propagation, common subexpression elimination across functions, scheduling across functions, etc. These advantages can be obtained by using C++ code with intrinsic functions instead of
assembly code.

 

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