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What is Assembly Language?

Assembly language is essentially the native language of your computer. Technically the processor of your machine understands machine code (consisting of ones and zeroes). But in order to write such a machine code program, you first write it in assembly language and then use an assembler to convert it to machine code.

However nothing is lost when the assembler does its conversion, since assembly language simply consists of mnemonic codes which are easy to remember (they are similar to words in the english language), which stand for each of the different machine code instructions that the machine is capable of executing.

Here is an example of a short excerpt from an assembly language program:

MOV EAX,1
SHL EAX,5
MOV ECX,17
SUB EAX,ECX
....

An assembler would convert this set of instructions into a series of ones and zeros (i.e. an executable program) that the machine could understand.

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What is it good for?

Because it is extremely low level, assembly language can be optimized extremely well. Therefore assembly language is used where the utmost performance is required for applications.

Assembly language is also useful for communicating with the machine at a hardware level. For this reason, it is often used for writing device drivers.

A third benefit of assembly language is the size of the resulting programs. Because no conversion from a higher level by a compiler is required, the resulting programs can be exceedingly small. For this reason, assembly language has been a language of choice for the demo scene. This involves coders writing extremely small programs which show off their creative and technical abilities to other members of the scene.

In this tutorial you will learn how to write assembly language programs and how to make use of these to do interesting things such as calculations, graphics, writing windows programs and optimizing programs written in other languages.