Binary GCD (Stein’s Algorithm) in C

1. Algorithm Description

Binary GCD also known as Stein’s Algorithm is an algorithm that computes the greatest common divisor of two (positive) numbers . Discovered in 1967 by the Israeli programmer Josef Stein, it’s an alternative to the classical Euclid’s Algorithm, and is considered to be more efficient than this as it’s replacing divisions and multiplications with bitwise operations . The algorithm is recursive by nature, but loops can be used instead of recursion .

The algorithm can be described by the following rules (here and here) . Note that by B_GCD we will refer to a function that returns the greatest common divisor of two positive numbers .

1. B_GCD(0, 0) is not defined, but for convenience we will consider it 0 (zero), so B_GCD(0,0) = 0 ;
2. B_GCD(num1, 0) = num1 and B_GCD(0, num2) = num2 . The reason for this is beacuse zero is divided by everything ;
3. If num1 and num2 are even, B_GCD(num1, num2) = 2 * B_GCD(num1/2, num2/2), as 2 is a common divisor .
4. If num1 is even and num2 is odd, B_GCD(num1, num2) = B_GCD(num1 /2, num2), as 2 is not a common divisor . The steps are the same if num1 is odd and num2 is even : B_GCD(num1, num2) = B_GCD(num1, num2/2) .
5. If both num1 and num2 are odd, then if num1 >= num2 the B_GCD(num1, num2) = B_GCD((num1-num2)/2, num2), else B_GCD(num1, num2) = B_GCD((num2-num1)/2, num1) .
6. Step 4 and 5 are repeated until num1 = num2, or num1 = 0 .

We can also use pseudo code to describe the above algorithm .

Recursive Version of Binary GCD (Stein Algorithm)

The loop-version of the Binary GCD Algorithm

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