You will create a C application, but add assembly language subroutines to perform string copy and capitalization operations.

Create main.c

Right-click Source Group 1 and select Add New Item. Select C file (.c) and name it `main.c'.

The main Function

Create the main C function. This function creates two character arrays, a and b, and calls two functions, my_strcpy and my_capitalize, that shall be implemented later.


            void my_strcpy(const char *src, char *dst);
void my_capitalize(char *str);

int main(void)
    const char a[] = "Hello world!";
    char b[20];

    my_strcpy(a, b);

    return 0;

Register usage and the Arm Procedure Call Standard

There are certain register use conventions which must be followed for the assembly code to coexist with the C code.

Calling functions and passing arguments

When a function calls a subroutine, it places the return address in the link register lr. The arguments (if any) are passed in registers r0-r3, starting with r0.

If there are more than four arguments, or they are too large to fit in the 32-bit registers, they are passed on the stack.

Temporary storage

Registers r0-r3 and r12 can be used for temporary storage if they were not used for arguments, or if the argument value is no longer needed. These registers are corruptible by the subroutine.

Preserved registers

Registers r4-r11 must be preserved by a subroutine. If any must be used, they must be saved before use, and restored before returning. This is typically done by pushing them to, and popping from, the stack.

Returning from subroutines

Because the return address has been stored in the link register, the BX lr instruction will reload the pc with the return address value from the lr. If the function returns a value, it will be passed through register r0.

Embedded Assembly in C

The keyword __asm is used to implement assembly code within a wider section of C code.

This attribute tells the compiler that the function is an embedded assembly function. See the Arm Compiler for Embedded Reference Guide for more information.

Implement string-copy function

The function my_strcpy has two arguments (src, dst). Each is a 32-bit long pointer to a character array. In this case, a pointer fits into a register, so argument src is passed through register r0 and dst is passed through r1.

Our function will load a character from memory, save it into the destination pointer and increment both pointers until the end of the string.


            __attribute__((naked)) void my_strcpy(const char *src, char *dst)
        "loop:              \n\t\
            LDRB  r2, [r0]  \n\t\
            ADDS  r0, #1    \n\t\
            STRB  r2, [r1]  \n\t\
            ADDS  r1, #1    \n\t\
            CMP   r2, #0    \n\t\
            BNE   loop      \n\t\
            BX    lr        \n\t\

Observe that r0-r2 are corrupted by this function, and will contain different values when the function returns.

Implement string-capitalization function

You can implement a function to capitalize all the lower-case letters in the string. The function will load each character, check to see if it is a lower-case ASCII letter, and if so, capitalize it.

Each character in the string is represented with its ASCII code. For example, A is represented with a 65 (0x41), B with 66 (0x42), and so on up to Z which uses 90 (0x5a). The lower case letters start at a (97, or 0x61) and end with z (122, or 0x7a). Convert a lower case letter to upper case by subtracting 32 (0x20).


            __attribute__((naked)) void my_capitalize(char *str)
        "cap_loop:             \n\t\
            LDRB  r1, [r0]     \n\t\
            CMP   r1, #'a'-1   \n\t\
            BLS   cap_skip     \n\t\
            CMP   r1, #'z'     \n\t\
            BHI   cap_skip     \n\t\
            SUBS  r1,#32       \n\t\
            STRB  r1, [r0]     \n\t\
        cap_skip:              \n\t\
            ADDS  r0, r0, #1   \n\t\
            CMP   r1, #0       \n\t\
            BNE   cap_loop     \n\t\
            BX    lr           \n\t\

The code loads the first byte into r1. If the value is less than a the code immediately proceeds to the next loop iteration.

Note the first CMP instruction compares r1 against the character immediately before a in the table. There is no lower than condition, just lower or same (LS).

To use the conditional BLS branch instruction, reduce by one the value r1 is compared against.

Build the example

Save all files, and click the Build button (F7).

Debug the example

Click the Debug button (Ctrl+F5) to load the example to the FVP. The code will stop at main().

The Call Stack + Locals tab show the value of a and b. Initially they will have no meaningful data.

Step (F11) through the code and notice how the values of a and b change. You should see the string Hello world! copy to b and then capitalize.