MicroPython functions written in assembly language for use with arrays to allow fast (vectorized) numeric computations.
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Some Functions for Doing Array Computations in MicroPython

array_funcs.py is a collection of MicroPython (Python 3) functions written in the inline assembly language for use with arrays to allow fast (vectorized) numeric computations.

They allow the basic linear algebra computations such as add, subtract, multiply, divide, negative, squared, square-root, sum, max, min and comparison to be carried out on one-dimensional arrays of data much faster than can be achieved with lists, loops or any built-in functions.

The methods were implemented using MicroPython's inline assembler as per the examples in the online documentation.

The purpose of writing these methods was to allow small microcomputers such as the PyBoard and ESP32 to process data (e.g. from sensors) in real time and potentially do some online analysis or machine intelligence. There is currently nothing similar to the numpy ndarray for MicroPython as far as I know.


  • Currently, only 1-dimensional arrays (vectors) are supported,
  • only identically-sized arrays can be added, subtracted, multiplied or divided (no broadcasting),
  • operations are carried out 'element-wise', and
  • only int and float data types are supported.


  • None of these functions have been thoroughly tested
  • I cannot guarantee what happens when issues such as floating-point overflow/underflow happen or when different array types such as unsigned ints are used (although 'nan' and 'inf' values are produced by default in some situations such as sqrt(-1))
  • The functions are written in assembler and there is virtually no type checking or exception handling
  • If you don't specify the function arguments correctly you can easily overwrite memory and crash your processor.

With more work, these functions could be used to create a new array class (potentially multi-dimensional) for matrix or ndarray calculations and potentially other linear-algebra operations. See 'Future Work' discussion below.

1. Functions for arrays of type int

Function Name Purpose
int_array_assign_scalar(a, len(a), n) a[:] = n
int_array_add_scalar(a, len(a), n) a = a + n
int_array_sub_scalar(a, len(a), n) a = a - n
int_array_div_scalar(a, len(a), n) a = a//n
int_array_mul_scalar(a, len(a), n) a = a*i
int_array_add_array(a, len(a), b) a = a + b
int_array_sub_array(a, len(a), b) a = a - b
int_array_cmp_array(a, len(a), b) a = a==b
int_array_div_array(a, len(a), b) a = a//b
int_array_mul_array(a, len(a), b) a = a*b
int_array_copy(a, len(a), b) a = b
int_array_neg(a, len(a)) a = -a
int_array_abs(a, len(a)) a = abs(a)
int_array_square(a, len(a)) a = a*a
int_array_sum(a, len(a)) -> n sum(a)
int_array_max(a, len(a)) -> n max(a)
int_array_min(a, len(a)) -> n min(a)

Example usage:

>>> import array_funcs
>>> from array import array
>>> a = array('i', [-1, 0, 1, 1000])
>>> array_funcs.int_array_add_scalar(a, len(a), 1)
>>> a
array('i', [0, 1, 2, 1001])

2. Functions for arrays of type float

Function Name Purpose
float_array_assign_scalar(x, len(x), v) x[:] = v
float_array_add_scalar(x, len(x), v) x = x + v
float_array_sub_scalar(x, len(x), v) x = x - v
float_array_div_scalar(x, len(x), v) x = x/v
float_array_mul_scalar(x, len(x), v) x = x*v
float_array_add_array(x, len(x), y) x = x + y
float_array_sub_array(x, len(x), y) x = x - y
float_array_cmp_array(x, len(x), y) x = x==y
float_array_div_array(x, len(x), y) x = x/y
float_array_mul_array(x, len(x), y) x = x*y
float_array_copy(x, len(x), y) x = y
float_array_div_int_array(x, len(x), a) x = x/a
float_array_mul_int_array(x, len(x), a) x = x*a
float_array_neg(x, len(x)) x = -x
float_array_abs(x, len(x)) x = abs(x)
float_array_square(x, len(x)) x = x*x
float_array_sqrt(x, len(x)) x = sqrt(x)
float_array_sum(x, len(x), v) v = sum(x)
float_array_max(x, len(x), v) v = max(x)
float_array_min(x, len(x), v) v = min(x)

Example usage:

>>> import array_funcs
>>> from array import array
>>> x = array('f', [-1.0, 0.0, 1.0, 1000.0])
>>> v = array('f', [0.5])
>>> array_funcs.float_array_add_scalar(x, len(x), v)
>>> x
array('f', [-0.5, 0.5, 1.5, 1000.5])

3. Type Conversion Functions

Function Name Purpose
int_array_from_float_array(a, len(a), x) a = int(x)
float_array_from_int_array(x, len(x), a) x = float(a)

See the script test_array_funcs.py for a demo of all the functions.

4. Other Math Functions

Function Name Purpose Speed Test*
float_array_pow_int(y, len(y), x, n) y = x**n 0.308 to 0.718ms
float_array_exp(y, len(y), x) y = exp(x) 8.447ms
float_array_pow_float(x, len(x), v) x = x**v 20.93ms

float_array_pow_int (in the file pow_funcs.py) is a function for raising the values in an array of floats to an integer power. Run test_pow_funcs.py for a demonstration.

float_array_exp (in the file exp_funcs.py) is a first attempt at a more sophisticated math array function (equivalent of math.exp). Based on initial testing, it is as accurate as math.exp (at least in the range -30.0 < x < 30.0) and about twice as fast as calculating array('f', [math.exp(xi) for xi in x]) for an array, x, of length 1000. Run test_exp_funcs.py for a demonstration. Not sure this speed advantage justifies it over the built-in function.

float_array_power is currently still written in Python using math.pow and therefore offers no speed improvement. I included it as a temporary solution for convenience only.


Above speed tests (*) were carried out on MicroPython v1.9.2 on a PYBoard v1.1 with the following inputs:

from urandom import random
x = array('f', [random() - 0.5 for i in range(1000)])
for n in range(-8, 9)

Someone with more experience in the ARM instruction set might be able to improve the code but it is already a big improvement (37 times faster in this test) compared to equivalent python code.

>>> import array_funcs as af
>>> from array import array
>>> from urandom import random
>>> from timers import timed_function
>>> timed_float_array_square = timed_function(af.float_array_square)
>>> def square(x):
...     return array('f', [xi**2 for xi in x])
>>> timed_square = timed_function(square)
>>> x = array('f', [random() - 0.5 for i in range(1000)])
>>> x[0:5]
array('f', [-0.325896, -0.2863666, -0.2251924, -0.2785372, 0.2061952])
>>> y = timed_square(x)
Function Time = 10.781ms
>>> timed_float_array_square(x, len(x))
Function Time =  0.287ms
>>> 10.781/0.287

Comparing the array sum functions written in assembler with the built-in sum function, there is a 15-times speed increase for int arrays and almost 60-times speed increase for float arrays.

>>> timed_float_array_sum = timed_function(af.float_array_sum)
>>> timed_sum = timed_function(sum)
>>> x = array('f', [random() - 0.5 for i in range(1000)])
>>> timed_sum(x)
Function <function> Time =  5.494ms
>>> z = array('f', [0])
>>> timed_float_array_sum(x, len(x), z)
Function <function> Time =  0.093ms
>>> z
array('f', [5.339773e+11])
>>> 5.494/0.093

The reason for the slow speed of Python arrays is explained here.

Possible Future Work

Create New Array Class

To make this collection of functions more usable, it would make sense to create a new Array class or potentially sub-class the MicroPython array class so that the functions are invoked seamlessly by the math operators.

For example:

>>> from array_funcs import Array
>>> a = Array('f', [0.322, -1.141, -0.702, 1.103])
>>> b = Array('f', [5.93, 13.85, -1.97, 8.36])
>>> x = Array('f', [0.0, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0])
>>> y = a*x + b
>>> print(y)
Array('f', [5.93, 12.709, -3.374, 11.669])

Other Math Functions

This project was motivated by the need to do fast vectorized calculations on arrays. However, it is limited by what is easily implementable in assembler language and by memory capacity of most microcontrollers. It would be nice to develop vectorized versions of some of the more common functions from the math module such as sin, cos, tan, ...etc, exp, log, pow, and perhaps random too. But these functions are written in c so it would probably make more sense to develop this project as a c module to do this.

2-Dimensional Arrays (Matrices)

These would be useful for many applications (e.g. machine learning, control of robots). jalawson has already written a versatile matrix manipulation module in Micropython called ulinalg. However, this was not designed for speed and uses lists not arrays. Converting it to use arrays would be considerable work but would also limit its versatility and robustness (arrays do not support complex or bool types for example). It might be better to keep a 'high-performance' matrix class in this module and keep the two projects separate.

Support For Other Data Types

Potentially, double, byte or bool

I welcome people's suggestions on the current state of this project, possible future direction and priorities.