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#include <cstring> // memcpy
#include <type_traits> // is_trivially_copyable
// bit_cast<Dest,Source> is a template function that implements the
// equivalent of "*reinterpret_cast<Dest*>(&source)". We need this in
// very low-level functions like the protobuf library and fast math
// support.
// float f = 3.14159265358979;
// int i = bit_cast<int32>(f);
// // i = 0x40490fdb
// The classical address-casting method is:
// // WRONG
// float f = 3.14159265358979; // WRONG
// int i = * reinterpret_cast<int*>(&f); // WRONG
// The address-casting method actually produces undefined behavior
// according to ISO C++ specification section 3.10 -15 -. Roughly, this
// section says: if an object in memory has one type, and a program
// accesses it with a different type, then the result is undefined
// behavior for most values of "different type".
// This is true for any cast syntax, either *(int*)&f or
// *reinterpret_cast<int*>(&f). And it is particularly true for
// conversions betweeen integral lvalues and floating-point lvalues.
// The purpose of 3.10 -15- is to allow optimizing compilers to assume
// that expressions with different types refer to different memory. gcc
// 4.0.1 has an optimizer that takes advantage of this. So a
// non-conforming program quietly produces wildly incorrect output.
// The problem is not the use of reinterpret_cast. The problem is type
// punning: holding an object in memory of one type and reading its bits
// back using a different type.
// The C++ standard is more subtle and complex than this, but that
// is the basic idea.
// Anyways ...
// bit_cast<> calls memcpy() which is blessed by the standard,
// especially by the example in section 3.9 . Also, of course,
// bit_cast<> wraps up the nasty logic in one place.
// Fortunately memcpy() is very fast. In optimized mode, with a
// constant size, gcc 2.95.3, gcc 4.0.1, and msvc 7.1 produce inline
// code with the minimal amount of data movement. On a 32-bit system,
// memcpy(d,s,4) compiles to one load and one store, and memcpy(d,s,8)
// compiles to two loads and two stores.
// I tested this code with gcc 2.95.3, gcc 4.0.1, icc 8.1, and msvc 7.1.
template <class Dest, class Source>
inline Dest bit_cast(Source const &source) {
static_assert(sizeof(Dest)==sizeof(Source), "size of destination and source objects must be equal");
static_assert(std::is_trivially_copyable<Dest>::value, "destination type must be trivially copyable.");
static_assert(std::is_trivially_copyable<Source>::value, "source type must be trivially copyable");
Dest dest;
std::memcpy(&dest, &source, sizeof(dest));
return dest;

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@recolic recolic commented Jun 16, 2018

What if type Dest align to 2 byte and Source type align to 4 byte? I heard that it's important and some library did implement bit_cast with taking alignment into consideration.

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