6502 assemblers

Assembler License Instruction set Host platform
64tass GPL MOS Technology 6502, WDC 65C02, WDC 65816/65802 various
ACME GPL MOS Technology 6502, WDC 65C02, WDC 65816/65802 various
ASM6 Public domain MOS Technology 6502 various
ATASM GPL MOS Technology 6502 various
Atari Assembler Editor Proprietary MOS Technology 6502 Atari 8-bit family
C64List Proprietary MOS Technology 6502 Commodore 64
CA65 GPL MOS Technology 6502, WDC 65C02, WDC 65816/65802 various
dasm GPL MOS Technology 6502, others various
dreamass GPL MOS Technology 6502, WDC 65816/65802 various
French Silk Proprietary MOS Technology 6502 Commodore 64
Kick Assembler Proprietary MOS Technology 6502 various
Lisa Proprietary MOS Technology 6502 Apple II series
MAC/65 Proprietary MOS Technology 6502 Atari 8-bit family
Merlin Proprietary MOS Technology 6502, WDC 65C02, WDC 65816/65802 Apple II series, Commodore 64, Commodore 128
WLA DX GPL MOS Technology 6502, others various
XA65 GPL MOS Technology 6502, others various
XASM Public domain MOS Technology 6502 various

680×0 assemblers

Assembler License Instruction set Host platform
A68K Free Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga
ASM-One Macro Assembler Free Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga
Digital Research Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Atari ST
Fantasm Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Apple Macintosh
GFA-Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Atari ST
GST Macro Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Atari ST
HiSoft DevPac Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga, Atari ST
Mac Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Apple Macintosh
MaxonASM Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga
Metacomco Macro Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga, Atari ST
MPW Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Apple Macintosh
OMA Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga
PhxAss Free Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga
Seka Assembler Proprietary Motorola 680×0 Commodore Amiga, Atari ST

ARM assemblers

Assembler License Instruction set Host platform
Archimedes Assembler Proprietary ARM Acorn Archimedes
ARM, inc. armasm Proprietary ARM Linux, Windows
FASMARM Free ARM various
IAR ARM Assembler Proprietary ARM Windows
Microsoft armasm Proprietary ARM Visual Studio 2005

IBM mainframe assemblers

Assembler License Instruction set Host platform
BAL Free IBM System/360 IBM BPS/360
Dignus Systems/ASM Proprietary z/Architecture numerous
HLASM Proprietary z/Architecture z/Architecture
IBM Assembler XF Proprietary IBM System/370 IBM System/370
PL360 Free IBM System/360 IBM System/360

Power Architecture assemblers

Assembler License Instruction set Host platform
IBM AIX assembler Proprietary POWER IBM AIX
MPW Power Assembler Proprietary PowerPC Apple Power Macintosh
Power Fantasm Proprietary PowerPC Apple Power Macintosh
StormPowerASM Proprietary PowerPC PowerPC Amiga

x86 assemblers

Assembler OS Open source License x86-64 Active Development
A86/A386 Windows, DOS No Proprietary No No
ACK Linux, Minix, Unix-like Yes BSD since 2003 No 1985-?[1]
Arrowsoft Assembler DOS No Public Domain No No
IBM ALP OS/2 No Proprietary No No
AT&T Unix System V No Proprietary No 1985-?[2]
Bruce D. Evans’ as86 Minix 1.x, 16-bit part in Linux Yes GPL No 1988-2001[3]
Digital Research ASM86 CP/M-86, DOS, Intel’s ISIS and iRMX No Proprietary No 1978-1992
DevelSoftware Assembler Windows, Linux, Unix-like No Free Listed, N/A No
FASM Windows, DOS, Linux, Unix-like Yes BSD with added Copyleft Yes Yes
GAS Unix-like, Windows, DOS, OS/2 Yes GPL Yes Since 1987
GoAsm Windows No Free Yes Yes
HLA Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X Yes Public domain No Yes
JWASM Windows, DOS, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2 Yes Sybase Open Watcom Public License Yes Yes
LZASM Windows, DOS No Free No No
MASM Windows, DOS, OS/2 No Microsoft EULA Yes Since 1981[4]
Mical a86 Unix, DOS, PC/IX Yes ? No 1982-1984[5]
NASM Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, DOS, OS/2 Yes BSD Yes Yes
Tim Paterson’s ASM 86-DOS, DOS DEBUG No Proprietary No 1979-1983
POASM Windows, Windows Mobile No Free Yes Yes
RosAsm Windows Yes GPL No No[6]
SLR’s OPTASM DOS No Proprietary No No
TASM Windows, DOS No Proprietary No ?[7][8]
WASM Windows, DOS, OS/2 Yes Sybase Open Watcom Public License No ?
TCCASM Unix-like, Windows Yes LGPL Yes Yes
Xenix Xenix 2.3 and 3.0 (before 1985) No Proprietary No 1982-1984
Yasm Windows, DOS, Linux, Unix-like Yes BSD Yes Yes
  1. ^ Part of the Minix 3 source tree, but without obvious development activity. The full source history is available.
  2. ^ Developed by Interactive in 1986 when they ported System V to Intel iAPX286 and 80386 architectures. Archetypical of ATT syntax because it was used as reference for GAS. Still used for The SCO Group’s products, Unixware and OpenServer.
  3. ^ Home site does not appear active any more. Also offered as part of FreeBSD Ports, in bcc-1995.03.12.
  4. ^ Active and supported, but not advertised.
  5. ^ Developed in 1982 at MIT as a cross-assembler, it was picked up by Interactive in 1983 when they developed PC/IX under IBM contract. The syntax was later used as base for ACK assembler, to be used in Minix 1.x toolchain.
  6. ^ RosAsm project on
  7. ^ Part of the C++Builder Tool Chain, but not sold as a stand-alone product, or marketed since the CodeGear spin-off; Borland was still selling it until then. Version 5.0, the last, is dated 1996.
  8. ^ Turbo Assembler was developed as “Turbo Editasm” by Uriah Barnett from Speedware Inc (Sacramento, CA) between 1984 and 1987. It was later sold to (or marketed by) Borland as their Turbo Assembler.

Other architectures

Assembler License Instruction set Host platform
ALM (Assembly Language for Multics) MIT License GE-645 Honeywell 6180 GE-645 Honeywell 6180
Babbage Proprietary GEC 4000 series GEC 4000 series
COMPASS[1] Proprietary CDC mainframe CDC mainframe
MACRO-10 Free PDP-10 PDP-10
MACRO-11 Unknown PDP-11 PDP-11
MACRO-32 Unknown VAX VAX
PASMO GPL Zilog Z80 numerous
MRS GPL Zilog Z80, 8080 ZX Spectrum, PMD-85
ASEM-51 Free 8051 Embedded Systems
GPASM GPL PIC microcontroller many
ID3E Free for academic use SC123 SC123 emulator
MIPS Free MIPS architecture MIPS architecture
SOAP (Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program) Proprietary IBM 650 IBM 650
MPW IIgs Assembler Proprietary WD 65C816 Apple IIgs
MetaSymbol Free SDS/XDS Sigma systems SDS/XDS Sigma systems
Autocoder[2] Free IBM 705, 14xx, 1410, 7010, 7070, 7072, 7074, 7080 various
FAP (Fortran Assembly Program) Free IBM 709, 704x, 709x various
MAP (Macro Assembly Program) Free IBM 709, 704x, 709x various
Symbolic Programming System (SPS)[3] Free IBM 14xx, 1620, 1710 IBM 1401, 1440, 1460, 1620, 1710



A disassembler is a computer program that translates machine language into assembly language—the inverse operation to that of an assembler. A disassembler differs from a decompiler, which targets a high-level language rather than an assembly language. Disassembly, the output of a disassembler, is often formatted for human-readability rather than suitability for input to an assembler, making it principally a reverse-engineering tool.

Assembly language source code generally permits the use of constants and programmer comments. These are usually removed from the assembled machine code by the assembler. If so, a disassembler operating on the machine code would produce disassembly lacking these constants and comments; the disassembled output becomes more difficult for a human to interpret than the original annotated source code. Some disassemblers make use of the symbolic debugging information present in object files such as ELF. The Interactive Disassembler allow the human user to make up mnemonic symbols for values or regions of code in an interactive session: human insight applied to the disassembly process often parallels human creativity in the code writing process.



A compiler is a computer program (or set of programs) that transforms source code written in a programming language (the source language) into another computer language (the target language, often having a binary form known as object code).The most common reason for wanting to transform source code is to create an executable program.

The name “compiler” is primarily used for programs that translate source code from a high-level programming language to a lower level language (e.g., assembly language or machine code). If the compiled program can run on a computer whose CPU or operating system is different from the one on which the compiler runs, the compiler is known as a cross-compiler. A program that translates from a low level language to a higher level one is a decompiler. A program that translates between high-level languages is usually called a language translator, source to source translator, or language converter. A language rewriter is usually a program that translates the form of expressions without a change of language.

A compiler is likely to perform many or all of the following operations: lexical analysis, preprocessing, parsing, semantic analysis (Syntax-directed translation), code generation, and code optimization.

Program faults caused by incorrect compiler behavior can be very difficult to track down and work around; therefore, compiler implementors invest significant effort to ensure compiler correctness.




Many assemblers support predefined macros, and others support programmer-defined (and repeatedly re-definable) macros involving sequences of text lines in which variables and constants are embedded. This sequence of text lines may include opcodes or directives. Once a macro has been defined its name may be used in place of a mnemonic. When the assembler processes such a statement, it replaces the statement with the text lines associated with that macro, then processes them as if they existed in the source code file (including, in some assemblers, expansion of any macros existing in the replacement text).

Note that this definition of “macro” is slightly different from the use of the term in other contexts, like the C programming language. C macros created through the #define directive typically are just one line, or a few lines at most. Assembler macro instructions can be lengthy “programs” by themselves, executed by interpretation by the assembler during assembly.

Since macros can have ‘short’ names but expand to several or indeed many lines of code, they can be used to make assembly language programs appear to be far shorter, requiring fewer lines of source code, as with higher level languages. They can also be used to add higher levels of structure to assembly programs, optionally introduce embedded debugging code via parameters and other similar features.

Macro assemblers often allow macros to take parameters. Some assemblers include quite sophisticated macro languages, incorporating such high-level language elements as optional parameters, symbolic variables, conditionals, string manipulation, and arithmetic operations, all usable during the execution of a given macro, and allowing macros to save context or exchange information. Thus a macro might generate a large number of assembly language instructions or data definitions, based on the macro arguments. This could be used to generate record-style data structures or “unrolled” loops, for example, or could generate entire algorithms based on complex parameters. An organization using assembly language that has been heavily extended using such a macro suite can be considered to be working in a higher-level language, since such programmers are not working with a computer’s lowest-level conceptual elements.

Macros were used to customize large scale software systems for specific customers in the mainframe era and were also used by customer personnel to satisfy their employers’ needs by making specific versions of manufacturer operating systems. This was done, for example, by systems programmers working with IBM’s Conversational Monitor System / Virtual Machine (VM/CMS) and with IBM’s “real time transaction processing” add-ons, Customer Information Control System CICS, and ACP/TPF, the airline/financial system that began in the 1970s and still runs many large computer reservations systems (CRS) and credit card systems today.

It was also possible to use solely the macro processing abilities of an assembler to generate code written in completely different languages, for example, to generate a version of a program in COBOL using a pure macro assembler program containing lines of COBOL code inside assembly time operators instructing the assembler to generate arbitrary code.

This was because, as was realized in the 1960s, the concept of “macro processing” is independent of the concept of “assembly”, the former being in modern terms more word processing, text processing, than generating object code. The concept of macro processing appeared, and appears, in the C programming language, which supports “preprocessor instructions” to set variables, and make conditional tests on their values. Note that unlike certain previous macro processors inside assemblers, the C preprocessor was not Turing-complete because it lacked the ability to either loop or “go to”, the latter allowing programs to loop.

Despite the power of macro processing, it fell into disuse in many high level languages (major exceptions being C/C++ and PL/I) while remaining a perennial for assemblers.

Macro parameter substitution is strictly by name: at macro processing time, the value of a parameter is textually substituted for its name. The most famous class of bugs resulting was the use of a parameter that itself was an expression and not a simple name when the macro writer expected a name. In the macro: foo: macro a load a*b the intention was that the caller would provide the name of a variable, and the “global” variable or constant b would be used to multiply “a”. If foo is called with the parameter a-c, the macro expansion of load a-c*b occurs. To avoid any possible ambiguity, users of macro processors can parenthesize formal parameters inside macro definitions, or callers can parenthesize the input parameters.


Assembly directives

Assembly directives

Assembly directives, also called pseudo-opcodes, pseudo-operations or pseudo-ops, are instructions that are executed by an assembler at assembly time, not by a CPU at run time. The names of pseudo-ops often start with a dot to distinguish them from machine instructions. Pseudo-ops can make the assembly of the program dependent on parameters input by a programmer, so that one program can be assembled different ways, perhaps for different applications. Or, a pseudo-op can be used to manipulate presentation of a program to make it easier to read and maintain. Another common use of pseudo-ops is to reserve storage areas for run-time data and optionally initialize their contents to known values.

Symbolic assemblers let programmers associate arbitrary names (labels or symbols) with memory locations and various constants. Usually, every constant and variable is given a name so instructions can reference those locations by name, thus promoting self-documenting code. In executable code, the name of each subroutine is associated with its entry point, so any calls to a subroutine can use its name. Inside subroutines, GOTO destinations are given labels. Some assemblers support local symbols which are lexically distinct from normal symbols (e.g., the use of “10$” as a GOTO destination).

Some assemblers, such as NASM provide flexible symbol management, letting programmers manage different namespaces, automatically calculate offsets within data structures, and assign labels that refer to literal values or the result of simple computations performed by the assembler. Labels can also be used to initialize constants and variables with relocatable addresses.

Assembly languages, like most other computer languages, allow comments to be added to program source code that will be ignored during assembly. Judicious commenting is essential in assembly language programs, as the meaning and purpose of a sequence of binary machine instructions can be difficult to determine. It should be noted that the “raw” (uncommented) assembly language generated by compilers or disassemblers is quite difficult to read when changes must be made.


Assembly language

Assembly language

A program written in assembly language consists of a series of (mnemonic) processor instructions and meta-statements (known variously as directives, pseudo-instructions and pseudo-ops), comments and data. Assembly language instructions usually consist of an opcode mnemonic followed by a list of data, arguments or parameters.[4] These are translated by an assembler into machine language instructions that can be loaded into memory and executed.

For example, the instruction below tells an x86/IA-32 processor to move an immediate 8-bit value into a register. The binary code for this instruction is 10110 followed by a 3-bit identifier for which register to use. The identifier for the AL register is 000, so the following machine code loads the AL register with the data 01100001.

10110000 01100001

This binary computer code can be made more human-readable by expressing it in hexadecimal as follows.

B0 61

Here, B0 means ‘Move a copy of the following value into AL’, and 61 is a hexadecimal representation of the value 01100001, which is 97 in decimal. Intel assembly language provides the mnemonic MOV (an abbreviation of move) for instructions such as this, so the machine code above can be written as follows in assembly language, complete with an explanatory comment if required, after the semicolon. This is much easier to read and to remember.

MOV AL, 61h  ; Load AL with 97 decimal (61 hex)

In some assembly languages the same mnemonic such as MOV may be used for a family of related instructions for loading, copying and moving data, whether these are immediate values, values in registers, or memory locations pointed to by values in registers. Other assemblers may use separate opcodes such as L for “move memory to register”, ST for “move register to memory”, LR for “move register to register”, MVI for “move immediate operand to memory”, etc.

The Intel opcode 10110000 (B0) copies an 8-bit value into the AL register, while 10110001 (B1) moves it into CL and 10110010 (B2) does so into DL. Assembly language examples for these follow.

MOV AL, 1h       ; Load AL with immediate value 1
MOV CL, 2h       ; Load CL with immediate value 2
MOV DL, 3h       ; Load DL with immediate value 3

The syntax of MOV can also be more complex as the following examples show.

MOV EAX, [EBX]	 ; Move the 4 bytes in memory at the address contained in EBX into EAX
MOV [ESI+EAX], CL ; Move the contents of CL into the byte at address ESI+EAX

In each case, the MOV mnemonic is translated directly into an opcode in the ranges 88-8E, A0-A3, B0-B8, C6 or C7 by an assembler, and the programmer does not have to know or remember which.

Transforming assembly language into machine code is the job of an assembler, and the reverse can at least partially be achieved by a disassembler. Unlike high-level languages, there is usually a one-to-one correspondence between simple assembly statements and machine language instructions. However, in some cases, an assembler may provide pseudoinstructions (essentially macros) which expand into several machine language instructions to provide commonly needed functionality. For example, for a machine that lacks a “branch if greater or equal” instruction, an assembler may provide a pseudoinstruction that expands to the machine’s “set if less than” and “branch if zero (on the result of the set instruction)”. Most full-featured assemblers also provide a rich macro language (discussed below) which is used by vendors and programmers to generate more complex code and data sequences.

Each computer architecture has its own machine language. Computers differ in the number and type of operations they support, in the different sizes and numbers of registers, and in the representations of data in storage. While most general-purpose computers are able to carry out essentially the same functionality, the ways they do so differ; the corresponding assembly languages reflect these differences.

Multiple sets of mnemonics or assembly-language syntax may exist for a single instruction set, typically instantiated in different assembler programs. In these cases, the most popular one is usually that supplied by the manufacturer and used in its documentation.




An assembler creates object code by translating assembly instruction mnemonics into opcodes, and by resolving symbolic names for memory locations and other entities.The use of symbolic references is a key feature of assemblers, saving tedious calculations and manual address updates after program modifications. Most assemblers also include macro facilities for performing textual substitution—e.g., to generate common short sequences of instructions as inline, instead of called subroutines.

Assemblers have been available since the 1950s and are far simpler to write than compilers for high-level languages as each mnemonic instruction / address mode combination translates directly into a single machine language opcode. Modern assemblers, especially for RISC architectures, such as SPARC or Power Architecture, as well as x86 and x86-64, optimize instruction scheduling to exploit the CPU pipeline efficiently.


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