algorithm (CRC or "cyclic redundancy code") A number derived from, and stored or transmitted with, a block of data in order to detect corruption. By recalculating the CRC and comparing it to the value originally transmitted, the receiver can detect some types of transmission errors.
A CRC is more complicated than a
checksum. It is calculated using division either using
shifts and exclusive ORs or table lookup (
modulo 256 or 65536).
The CRC is "redundant" in that it adds no information. A single corrupted
bit in the data will result in a one bit change in the calculated CRC but multiple corrupted bits may cancel each other out.
CRCs treat blocks of input bits as coefficient-sets for
polynomials. E.g., binary 10100000 implies the polynomial: 1*x^7 + 0*x^6 + 1*x^5 + 0*x^4 + 0*x^3 + 0*x^2 + 0*x^1 + 0*x^0. This is the "message polynomial". A second polynomial, with constant coefficients, is called the "generator polynomial". This is divided into the message polynomial, giving a quotient and remainder. The coefficients of the remainder form the bits of the final CRC. So, an order-33 generator polynomial is necessary to generate a 32-bit CRC. The exact bit-set used for the generator polynomial will naturally affect the CRC that is computed.
Most CRC implementations seem to operate 8 bits at a time by building a table of 256 entries, representing all 256 possible 8-bit byte combinations, and determining the effect that each byte will have. CRCs are then computed using an input byte to select a 16- or 32-bit value from the table. This value is then used to update the CRC.
Ethernet packets have a 32-bit CRC. Many disk formats include a CRC at some level.
(1997-08-02)