Because of frequent questions ....... here is the BC FAQ 1) Why does BC have its own arbitrary precision number routines (found in lib/number.c) rather than using GMP? GMP has "integers" (no digits after a decimal), "rational numbers" (stored as 2 integers) and "floats". None of these will correctly represent a POSIX BC number. Floats are the closest, but will not behave correctly for many computations. For example, BC numbers have a "scale" that represent the number of digits to represent after the decimal point. The multiplying two of these numbers requires one to calculate an exact number of digits after the decimal point regardless of the number of digits in the integer part. GMP floats have a "fixed, but arbitrary" mantissa and so multiplying two floats will end up dropping digits BC must calculate. 2) The code "ibase=16; obase=10; FF" outputs FF, not 255. Isn't this a bug? No. ibase changed the input base at that point. The 10 is then in base 16 and thus is the value 16. Therefore, both ibase and obase are 16 (decimal). And FF (base 16) on input is printed as FF (base 16) on output. So how can one get 255? First, single digit numbers are not converted using ibase. So A is always 10 (decimal). The following code will always work. "ibase=F+1; obase=A; FF" and that always prints 255.