The strangest way of rounding down to the nearest quarter

Raymond Chen

In a previous life, I wrote database software.A customer complained that one of their reports was taking anunacceptably long amount of time to generate, and I was askedto take a look at it even though it wasn’t my account.

The report was a vacation-days report, listing the number ofvacation days taken and available for each employee. Vacationdays accrued at a fixed rate but were granted only inquarter-day increments. For example, if you earned 15 vacationdays per year and the year was 32% complete, then you hadaccrued 32% × 15 = 4.8 vacation days, of which 4.75 wereavailable to use.

The existing code to round the number of accrued days down tothe nearest quarter-day went something like this:

* assume that at this point, ACCRUED is the number
* of accrued days.
* STR(ACCRUED,6,2) converts ACCRUED to a 6-character
* string: 3 integer digits, a decimal point, and two
* fractional digits.  Excess fractional digits are rounded.
STORE RIGHT(S,2) TO F        && extract digits after decimal
IF F < "25"
 F = "00"                    && 00 to 24 becomes 00
 IF F < "50"
  F = "25"                   && 25 to 49 becomes 25
  IF F < "75"
   F = "50"                  && 50 to 74 becomes 50
   F = "75"                  && 75 to 99 becomes 75
ROUNDED = VAL(LEFT(S,4) + F) && reconstruct value and convert

In other words, the code converted the number to a string,extracted the digits after the decimal point, did string comparisonsto figure out which quartile the fraction resided in, thencreated a new string with the replacement fraction and convertedthat string back to a number.And all this in an interpreted language.

This code fragment was repeated each time rounding-down wasneeded because the language supported only 32 subroutines,and this procedure wasn’t important enough to be worth kickingout one of the other existing subroutines.

I replaced this seventeen-line monstrosity with the one-lineequivalent each time it occurred, and the report ran much faster.

(This is nowhere near the strangest way of implementing rounding.There are far worse examples.)

Exercise: What is the one-line equivalent?

Exercise: What is the double-rounding bug in the originalcode?