Source code

You need to add a main.c file to the source folder. To do this, right-click Source Group 1 > Add New Item.

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Select ‘C file (.c)’ and then name it ‘main’. Choose an appropriate location to save it - such as the project folder.

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Next you will populate it with some code.

The main() function

First create the main() C function. This function defines two variables (a and b) with character arrays. We will also define the function prototypes of the assembler functions (see later).


            void my_strcpy(const char *, char *);
void my_capitalize(char *);

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

    my_strcpy(a, b);


Place the stack and heap

CMSIS6 requires that the location of the stack and heap are defined.

Open the Options pane, and navigate to the Linker tab.

Deselect Use Memory Layout from Target Debug, and a scatter file should be defined. Click the Edit button, and then OK to close the Options pane.

Edit the scatter file appropriately to place stack (ARM_LIB_STACK) and heap (ARM_LIB_HEAP) in SRAM areas of the target.

For example, if using the Cortex-M3 VHT, edit as follows.


            LR_IROM1 0x00000000 0x00400000  {    ; load region size_region
  ER_IROM1 0x00000000 0x00400000  {  ; load address = execution address
   *.o (RESET, +First)
   .ANY (+RO)
   .ANY (+XO)
  RW_IRAM1 0x20000000 0x00300000  {  ; RW data
   .ANY (+RW +ZI)
  ARM_LIB_STACK	0x20300000 EMPTY 0x00001000 {}
  ARM_LIB_HEAP	0x20301000 EMPTY 0x00001000 {}

Mixing Assembly Language and C Code

You will program the board in C, but add assembly language subroutines to perform the string copy and capitalization operations. Most embedded systems are coded purely in C and resort to assembly language only for time-critical processing. This is because the code development process is much faster (and hence much less expensive) when writing in C when compared to assembly language. Writing an assembly language function which can be called as a C function results in a modular program which gives us the best of both worlds: the fast, modular development of C and the fast performance of assembly language. It is also possible to add inline assembly code to C code..

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

Register use conventions

There are certain register use conventions to enable the assembly code to co-exist with 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 through r3, starting with r0. If there are more than four arguments, or they are too large to fit in 32-bit registers, they are passed on the stack.

Temporary storage

Registers r0 through r3 can be used for temporary storage if they were not used for arguments, or if the argument value is no longer needed.

Preserved registers

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

Returning from functions

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.

String copy

The function my_strcpy has two arguments (src and dst). Each is a 32-bit long pointer to a character. 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\

String capitalization

The function my_capitalize will capitalize all the lower-case letters in the string. The code loads each character, checks to see if it is a letter, and if so, capitalizes 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).

To convert a lower case letter to an upper case letter, subtract 32 from its ASCII value.


            __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 is shown above. It loads the byte into r1. If the byte is less than a then the code skips the rest of the tests and proceeds to finish up the loop iteration.

This code has a quirk – the first compare instruction compares r1 against the character immediately before a in the table. Why? The code is to compare r1 against a and then branch if it is lower. However, there is no branch lower instruction, just branch lower or same (BLS). To use that instruction, reduce by one the value to compare r1 against.