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BC(1plan9) BC(1plan9)


bc - arbitrary-precision arithmetic language


bc [ -c ] [ -l ] [ -s ] [ file ... ]


Bc is an interactive processor for a language that resembles C but provides arithmetic on numbers of arbitrary length with up to 100 digits right of the decimal point. It takes input from any files given, then reads the standard input. The -l argument stands for the name of an arbitrary precision math library. The -s argument suppresses the automatic display of calculation results; all output is via the print command.

The following syntax for bc programs is like that of C; L means letter a-z, E means expression, S means statement.

comments are enclosed in /* */

newlines end statements

simple variables: L
array elements: L[E]
The words ibase, obase, and scale
arbitrarily long numbers with optional sign and decimal point.
number of significant decimal digits
number of digits right of decimal point
function call

+ - * / % ^  (% is remainder; ^ is power)

++ -- 

== <= >= != < >
= += -= *= /= %= ^=

{ S ; ... ; S }
print E
if ( E ) S
while ( E ) S
for ( E ; E ; E ) S
null statement

define L ( L , ... , L ){
auto L , ... , L
S ; ... ; S
return E


-l math library
Bessel function

All function arguments are passed by value.

The value of an expression at the top level is printed unless the main operator is an assignment or the -s command line argument is given. Text in quotes, which may include newlines, is always printed. Either semicolons or newlines may separate statements. Assignment to scale influences the number of digits to be retained on arithmetic operations in the manner of dc(1). Assignments to ibase or obase set the input and output number radix respectively.

The same letter may be used as an array, a function, and a simple variable simultaneously. All variables are global to the program. Automatic variables are pushed down during function calls. In a declaration of an array as a function argument or automatic variable empty square brackets must follow the array name.

Bc is actually a preprocessor for dc(1), which it invokes automatically, unless the -c (compile only) option is present. In this case the dc input is sent to the standard output instead.


Define a function to compute an approximate value of the exponential. Use it to print 10 values. (The exponential function in the library gives better answers.)

scale = 20
define e(x) {
	auto a, b, c, i, s
	a = 1
	b = 1
	s = 1
	for(i=1; 1; i++) {
		a *= x
		b *= i
		c = a/b
		if(c == 0) return s
		s += c
for(i=1; i<=10; i++) print e(i)


/lib/bclib mathematical library




dc(1), hoc(1)


No or operators.

A statement must have all three

A is interpreted when read, not when executed.