Program 1: Exiting

Program 1: Exiting

While you may wonder why you need to talk about how to exit a program, know that you do. Unlike many higher languages, assembly programs don’t gracefully exit when you stop writing code. What happens if you don’t exit the program is the the computer will keep reading data in memory past the last opcode. Because you are running in a *nix environment, you will get a segmentation fault as it will drift into memory you don’t have access to. If this were an embedded solution (with no operating system), it is the definition of unexpected behavior.

MOV operation #

The first operation you are going to use is mov. mov moves a value into a register. It can move an immediate value or a value stored in another register.

    mov     r0, #2          @ moves the value 2 into register 0 
    mov     r1, r0          @ copies the value 2 from register 0 to register 1 
                            @ register 0 is still equal to 2

Supervisor Calls #

Supervisor calls or system calls (syscalls) are the way that our program communicates with the operating system (known as the supervisor). There is a whole list of calls that you can make ranging from opening files, to forking processes, to exiting programs.

There are two ways you can make supervisor calls in ARM assembly, but we will only be using this format:

  • Supervisor call number loaded into r7 (without the 0x900000 prefix)
  • Parameters generally loaded into r0-r3
  • Supervisor call executed with the command svc 0

Reading the syscall table #

Take a second and go to the link labeled as whole list. You can see the name is the name of the function. For this first example, you need exit. As you can see it’s close to the top. If you read across the table, you can see the next column is labeled as r7. This is the number you need to put into register 7, but without the 0x900000 prefix. (i.e., 1) The next couple of columns are the parameters that will be passed to the function, conveniently labeled r0-r5. For the exit call, you only need one parameter put into r0, which is the int error_code.

A Note about data types #

The exit call expects an integer. You will see that when you use this, you can’t tell the computer that you are using and integer, but only put a number into the register. The types that are listed in this table, for the assembly programs you will be writing, should be approached as “this the the type the kernel will interpret the value as.” While it may not effect us too much in this course, consider this.

Imagine you are calling the read command and the file descriptor is 4,294,967,259. (Not practical but suspend disbelief.) Because the read call expects an unsigned integer, this would be fine. Now imagine that there was some crazy error and you wanted to pass the file descriptor as the error code on the exit call to debug. Since the exit call is NOT unsigned, it would actually output -37 because the exit call can be negative. We’ll talk more about this later, but just keep this in the back of your head when you are reading the table and interpreting the data types.

Compiling and Running #

To compile the program, you actually need to run two commands. If the filename is main.s, the first command you need to run is:

as -o main.o main.s

This will invoke the assembler and take all of the code we wrote and convert it into the 1’s and 0’s that the processor will understand. The next thing you need to do it run the linker with:

ld -o main main.o

This will take the raw code and organize it in the way the operating system and processor expects it to be in. You can then finally run:


and get the result.

Program 1: Exiting Video

Description of Program
Write a program that exits with the error code 0.
Completed Code
Expected Output
armasm:~$ ./main 
armasm:~$ echo $?