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# All about the Flags Register

The Flag Register is covered in our Textbook in Chapter 5, page 98. Chapter 5 is a bit ahead of binary arithmetic, so to simplify matters lets look at what interests us right now. As you can tell, there's a lot of background material to cover before we can sink our teeth into programming in assembly language. The first few weeks are difficult because of topics like this - the Flags Register is covered in Chapter 5, but we are just starting Chapter 3. Yet we need a knowledge of the Flags Register now. So, here's a quick primer on the Flags Register.

# The 8088/8086 Flags Register

 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 O D I T S Z A P C

# What Do the Letters Mean?

 C Carry P Parity A Auxillary Carry Z Zero S Sign T Trap I Interrupt D Direction O Overflow

# And how about the numbers?

Bit position. The Flags Register may be represented as a value, but this value really isn't good for anything. The Flags Register is a bit masked value. The various bits that are set are of interest to us.

# The Bits

## Carry Bit

Indicates carry after addition or a borrow after subtraction. The carry flag also indicates an error condition after some programs and procedures.

## Parity Bit

The parity bit is a logical 0 for odd parity and a logical 1 for even parity. Parity is a count of the 1s and 0s and is expressed as Even or Odd. For example, if a number contains 3 binary 1 bits, it has Odd parity. If a number contains zero 1 bits, it is said to have Even parity.

## Auxillary Carry Bit

Holds a carry after addition or a borrow after subtraction between bit positions 3 and 4 of the result. This highly specialized flag bit is tested by DAA and DAS instructions to adjust the value of AL after a BCD (binary coded decimal) addition or subtraction. Otherwise, the A flag is not used by the microprocessor.

## Zero Bit

Indicates that the result of an arithmetic or logic operation is zero. If Z = 1, the result is zero. If Z = 0, the result is not zero.

## Sign Bit

Indicates the arithmetic sign of the result after an addition or subtraction. If S = 1, the result is negative. If S = 0, the result is positive.

## Trap Bit

An onchip debugging feature of the microprocessor. Not discussed in this paper.

## Interrupt Bit

An interrupt controls operation of the INTR (interrupt request) input pin. If I = 1, the INTR pin is enabled. If I = 0, the INTR pin is disabled. The state of the I flag bit is controlled by the STI (set I flag) and CLI (clear I flag) instruction.

## Direction Bit

Controls the selection of increment and decrement for the DI and SI registers during string instructions. If D = 1, the registers are automatically decremented. If D = 0, the registers are automatically incremented. The D flag is set with STD (sexually transmitted disease) and cleared with CLD (penicillin) instructions.

## Overflow Bit

A condition that can occur when signed numbers are added or subtracted. A overflow condition indicates that a result has exceeded the capacity of the machine. For example, if 7Fh (+127) is added to 01h (+1), the result is 80h (-128). This result represents an overflow condition indicated by the overflow flag for signed addition. For unsigned operations, ignore the overflow flag.

# Other Flag Bits

With the advent of the 80286 and above, additional bit values are available. The 80286 Flag Register is 16 bit, while later processors are 32 bit. The Flagsocessors are 32 bit. The Flags Registers of the various processors are upwardly compatible. Additional bits include IOPL (Input/Output Priviledge Level), NT (Nested Task), RF (Resume - used with debugging), VM (Virtual Mode - protected mode DOS virtual machine selection), and AC (Alignment Check - addressing a WORD or DWORD on a non WORD or DWORD boundary). Basically, be aware they exist, but don't concern yourselves with them.

# Examples

### Example 1:

 92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set + 69 0100 0101 (45h) MSB not Set 161 1010 0001 (A1h) MSB is set

 Flags: O: 1 S: 1 Z: 0 C: 0

(pseudo coding: al=92; bl=69; add al,bl)

### Example 2:

 92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set + 197 1100 0101 (C5h) MSB is Set 289 0010 0001 (21h) Is this 289?

 Flags: O: 0 S: 0 Z: 0 C: 1

(pseudo coding: al=92; bl=197; add al,bl)

### Example 3:

 92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set + -69 1100 0101 (BBh) MSB is Set 23 0001 0111 (17h) MSB not Set

 Flags: O: 0 S: 0 Z: 0 C: 1

(pseudo coding: al=92; bl=-69; add al,bl)

### Example 4:

 92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set - +69 0100 0101 (45h) MSB not Set 23 0001 0111 (17h) MSB not Set

 Flags: O: 0 S: 0 Z: 0 C: 0

(pseudo coding: al=92; bl=69; sub al,bl)

### Example 5:

 -92 1010 0100 (A4h) MSB is Set + -69 1011 1011 (BBh) MSB is Set -161 0101 1111 (5Fh) Bad blowout here. This is 95 (5Fh). What we want is FF5Fh. We're missing something

 Flags: O: 1 S: 0 Z: 0 C: 1

(pseudo coding: al=-92; bl=-69; add al,bl)

### Example 6:

 -92 1010 0100 (A4h) MSB is Set - -69 1011 1011 (BBh) MSB is Set -23 1110 1001 (E9h) MSB is Set

 Flags: O: 0 S: 1 Z: 0 C: 1

(pseudo coding: al=-92; bl=-69; sub al,bl)

### Example 7:

 92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set - +92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set 0 0000 0000 (00h) See Flags

 Flags: O: 0 S: 0 Z: 1 C: 0

(pseudo coding: al=92; bl=92; sub al,bl)

### Example 8:

 92 0101 1100 (5Ch) MSB not Set + -92 1010 0100 (A4h) MSB is Set 0 0000 0000 (00h) See Flags

 Flags: O: 0 S: 0 Z: 1 C: 1

(pseudo coding: al=92; bl=-92; add al,bl)

# I still don't understand the Overflow bit

O.K. - I think I got every overflow question wrong on every Quiz and Test myself. So here's the secret (we'll revisit some of the above examples) - I wish somebody would have made it so easy for me!. All the examples are of the general form A + B = C. Whenever the MSB of A does not equal the MSB of C, the Overflow flag is set. Put differently (and more correct): all examples are of the form A = A + B. Whenever the MSB of A (before the operation) is different from the MSB of A (after the operation), Overflow may have occured. Please also note, a carry or borrow (which sets the Carry Bit) is a separate event. And also note how tightly coupled the Sign Bit is to result's MSB.

### Example 1:

 92 0xxx xxxx +  69 0xxx xxxx 161 1xxx xxxx
Overflow Bit is Set

### Example 2:

 92 0xxx xxxx + 197 1xxx xxxx 289 0xxx xxxx
Overflow Bit is NOT Set

### Example 3:

 -92 1xxx xxxx - -69 1xxx xxxx -23 1xxx xxxx
Overflow Bit is NOT set

### Question 4:

 ?? 1xxx xxxx +/- ?? 1xxx xxxx ?? 0xxx xxxx

You guessed it... the Overflow Bit is set

### And 16 bit (WORD) math:

 ???? 1xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx +/- ???? 0xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx ???? 1xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx
Yep... the Overflow Bit is NOTset

# And what you see in CodeView

These values can be observed through the Register Window.

Flag Set ( = 1) Not Set ( = 0)
Carry
CY
NC
Parity
PE
PO
Auxillary Carry
AC
NA
Zero
ZR
NZ
Sign
NG
PL
Trap
---
---
Interrupt
EI
DI
Direction
DN
UP
Overflow
OV
NV

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