Assembly - Procedures

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Procedures or subroutines are very important in assembly language, as the assembly language programs tend to be large in size. Procedures are identified by a name. Following this name, the body of the procedure is described which performs a well-defined job. End of the procedure is indicated by a return statement.

Syntax:

Following is the syntax to define a procedure:

proc_name:
   procedure body
   ...
   ret

The procedure is called from another function by using the CALL instruction. The CALL instruction should have the name of the called procedure as an argument as shown below:

CALL proc_name

The called procedure returns the control to the calling procedure by using the RET instruction.

Example:

Let us write a very simple procedure named sum that adds the variables stored in the ECX and EDX register and returns the sum in the EAX register:

section	.text
    global _start         ;must be declared for using gcc
_start:	;tell linker entry point
	mov	ecx,'4'
	sub     ecx, '0'
	mov 	edx, '5'
	sub     edx, '0'
	call    sum     ;call sum procedure
	mov 	[res], eax
	mov	ecx, msg	
	mov	edx, len
	mov	ebx,1	;file descriptor (stdout)
	mov	eax,4	;system call number (sys_write)
	int	0x80	;call kernel
	mov	ecx, res
	mov	edx, 1
	mov	ebx, 1	;file descriptor (stdout)
	mov	eax, 4	;system call number (sys_write)
	int	0x80	;call kernel
	mov	eax,1	;system call number (sys_exit)
	int	0x80	;call kernel
sum:
   mov     eax, ecx
   add     eax, edx
   add     eax, '0'
   ret
section .data
msg db "The sum is:", 0xA,0xD 
len equ $- msg   
segment .bss
res resb 1

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

The sum is:
9

Stacks Data Structure:

A stack is an array-like data structure in the memory in which data can be stored and removed from a location called the 'top' of the stack. The data that needs to be stored is 'pushed' into the stack and data to be retrieved is 'popped' out from the stack. Stack is a LIFO data structure, i.e., the data stored first is retrieved last.

Assembly language provides two instructions for stack operations: PUSH and POP. These instructions have syntaxes like:

PUSH    operand
POP     address/register

The memory space reserved in the stack segment is used for implementing stack. The registers SS and ESP (or SP) are used for implementing the stack. The top of the stack, which points to the last data item inserted into the stack is pointed to by the SS:ESP register, where the SS register points to the beginning of the stack segment and the SP (or ESP) gives the offset into the stack segment.

The stack implementation has the following characteristics:

  • Only words or doublewords could be saved into the stack, not a byte.

  • The stack grows in the reverse direction, i.e., toward the lower memory address

  • The top of the stack points to the last item inserted in the stack; it points to the lower byte of the last word inserted.

As we discussed about storing the values of the registers in the stack before using them for some use; it can be done in following way:

; Save the AX and BX registers in the stack
PUSH    AX
PUSH    BX
; Use the registers for other purpose
MOV	AX, VALUE1
MOV 	BX, VALUE2
...
MOV 	VALUE1, AX
MOV	VALUE2, BX
; Restore the original values
POP	AX
POP	BX

Example:

The following program displays the entire ASCII character set. The main program calls a procedure named display, which displays the ASCII character set.

section	.text
    global _start         ;must be declared for using gcc
_start:	;tell linker entry point
	call    display
	mov	eax,1	;system call number (sys_exit)
	int	0x80	;call kernel
display:
	mov    ecx, 256
next:
	push    ecx
	mov     eax, 4
	mov     ebx, 1
	mov     ecx, achar
	mov     edx, 1
	int     80h
	pop     ecx	
	mov	dx, [achar]
	cmp	byte [achar], 0dh
	inc	byte [achar]
	loop    next
	ret
section .data
achar db '0'  

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

0123456789:;<=>?@ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ[\]^_`abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz{|}
...
...


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