Great Microprocessors of the Past and Present
I am NOT the author of this document - I stole it from the web because I thought it was a fantastic text! This edition is based on v.12.??.?? with some additions from v.13.4.0 and is pure XHTML with two different style sheets, one for screen and one suited for printing. The original was written by John Bayko.

Before the Great Dark Cloud.

The Intel 4004, the first (Nov 1971)

The first single chip CPU was the Intel 4004, a 4-bit processor meant for a calculator. It processed data in 4 bits, but its instructions were 8 bits long. Program and Data memory were separate, 1K data memory and a 12-bit PC for 4K program memory (in the form of a 4 level stack, used for CALL and RET instructions). There were also sixteen 4-bit (or eight 8-bit) general purpose registers.

The 4004 had 46 instructions, using only 2,300 transistors in a 16-pin DIP. It ran at a clock rate of 740kHz (eight clock cycles per CPU cycle of 10.8 microseconds) - the original goal was 1MHz, to allow it to compute BCD arithmetic as fast (per digit) as a 1960's era IBM 1620.

The 4040 (1972) was an enhanced version of the 4004, adding 14 instructions, larger (8 level) stack, 8K program space, and interrupt abilities (including shadows of the first 8 registers). Should Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 ever be found by an extraterrestrial species, the 4004 will represent an example of Earth's technology.

[for additional information, see Appendix E]

TMS 1000, First microcontroller (1974)

Texas Instruments followed the Intel 4004/4040 closely with the 4-bit TMS 1000, which was the first microprocessor to include enough RAM, and space for a program ROM, and I/O support on a single chip to allow it to operate without multiple external support chips, making it the first microcontroller. It also featured an innovative feature to add custom instructions to the CPU.

It included a 4-bit accumulator, 4-bit Y register and 2 or 3-bit X register, which combined to create a 6 or 7 bit index register for the 64 or 128 nybbles of on chip RAM. A 1-bit status register was used for various purposes in different contexts. The 6-bit PC combined with a 4 bit page register and an optional 1 bit bank ('chapter') register to produce 10 or 11 address bits to 1KB or 2KB of on-chip program ROM. There was also a 6-bit subroutine return register and 4-bit page buffer, used as the destination on a branch, or exchanged with the PC and page registers for a subroutine (amounting to a 1-element stack, branches could not be performed within a subroutine).

An interesting feature of the PC is it was incremented using a feedback shift register, not a counter, so instructions were not consecutive in memory, but since all memory was internal, this was not a problem. Instructions were 8 bits with twelve hardwired, and with a 31X16 element PLA allowing 31 custom microprogrammed instructions. All hardwired instructions were single cycle, and no interrupts were allowed.

It gained fame in the movie "ET: The Extraterrestrial" as the brains in the Texas Instruments "Speak and Spell" educational toy.

The Intel 8080 (April 1974)

The 8080 was the successor to the 8008 (April 1972, intended as a terminal controller, and similar to the 4040). While the 8008 had 14 bit PC and addressing, the 8080 had a 16 bit address bus and an 8 bit data bus. Internally it had seven 8 bit registers (A-E, H, L - pairs BC, DE and HL could be combined as 16 bit registers), a 16 bit stack pointer to memory which replaced the 8 level internal stack of the 8008, and a 16 bit program counter. It also had several I/O ports - 256 of them, so I/O devices could be hooked up without taking away or interfering with the addressing space, and a signal pin that allowed the stack to occupy a separate bank of memory.

The 8080 was used in the Altair 8800, the first widely-known personal computer (though the definition of 'first PC' is fuzzy. Some claim that the 12-bit LINC (Laboratory IN>struments C>omputer) was the first 'personal computer'. Developed at MIT (Lincoln Labs) in 1963 using DEC components, it inspired DEC to design its own PDP-8 in 1965, also considered an early 'personal computer'). 'Home computer' would probably be a better term here, though).

Intel updated the design with the 8085 (1976), which added two instructions to enable/disable three added interrupt pins (and the serial I/O pins), and simplified hardware by only using +5V power, and adding clock generator and bus controller circuits on-chip.

The Zilog Z-80 - End of an 8-bit line (July 1976)

The Z-80 was intended to be an improved 8080 (designed by ex-Intel engineers), and it was - vastly improved. It also used 8 bit data and 16 bit addressing, and could execute all of the 8080 (but not 8085) op codes, but included 80 more, instructions (1, 4, 8 and 16 bit operations and even block move and block I/O). The register set was doubled, with two banks of data registers (including A and F) that could be switched between. This allowed fast operating system or interrupt context switches. The Z-80 also added two index registers (IX and IY) and 2 types of relocatable vectored interrupts (direct or via the 8-bit I register).

Clock speeds ranged from the original Z-80 2.5MHz to the Z80-H (later called Z80-C) at 8MHz, and later a CMOS version at 10MHz.

Like many processors (including the 8085), the Z-80 featured many undocumented instructions. In some cases, they were a by-product of early designs (which did not trap invalid op codes, but tried to interpret them as best they could), and in other cases chip area near the edge was used for added instructions, but fabrication made the failure rate high. Instructions that often failed were just not documented, increasing chip yield. Later fabrication made these more reliable.

But the thing that really made the Z-80 popular in designs was the memory interface - the CPU generated its own RAM refresh signals, which meant easier design and lower system cost, the deciding factor in its selection for the TRS-80 Model 1. That and its 8080 compatibility, and CP/M, the first standard microprocessor operating system, made it the first choice of many systems.

Embedded varients of the Z-80 were also produced. Hitachi produced the 64180 (1984) with added components (two 16 bit timers, two DMA controllers, three serial ports, and a segmented MMU mapping a 20 bit (1M) address space to any three variable sized segments in the 16 bit (64K) Z-80 memory map), a design Zilog and Hitachi later refined to produce the Z-180 and HD64180Z (1987?) which were compatible with Z-80 peripheral chips, plus variants (Z-181, Z-182). The Z-280 was a 16 bit version introduced about July, 1987 (loosely based on the ill-fated Z-800), with a paged (like Z-180) 24 bit (16M) MMU (8 or 16 bit bus resizing), user/supervisor modes and features for multitasking, a 256 byte (4-way) cache, 4 channel DMA, and a huge number of new op codes tacked on (total of almost 3,500, including previously undocumented Z-80 instructions), though the size made some very slow. Internal clock could be run at twice the external clock (ex. 16MHz CPU with a 8MHz bus), and additional on-chip components were available. A 16/32 bit Z-380 version also exists (1994) with added 32-bit linear addressing mode (not Z-80 compatible).

The Z-8 (1979) was an embedded processor with on-chip RAM (actually a set of 124 general and 20 special purpose registers) and ROM (often a BASIC interpreter), and is available in a variety of custom configurations up to 20MHz. Not actually related to the Z-80.

The 650x, Another Direction (1975)

Shortly after Intel's 8080, Motorola introduced the 6800. Some of the designers left to start MOS Technologies (later bought by Commodore), which introduced the 650x series which included the 6501 (pin compatible with the 6800, taken off the market almost immediately for legal reasons) and the 6502 (used in early Commodores, Apples and Ataris). Like the 6800 series, varients were produced which added features like I/O ports (6510 in the Commodore 64) or reduced costs with smaller address buses (6507 13-bit 8K address bus in the Atari 2600). The 650x was little endian (lower address byte could be added to an index register while higher byte was fetched) and had a completely different instruction set from the big endian 6800. Apple designer Steve Wozniak described it as the first chip you could get for less than a hundred dollars (actually a quarter of the 6800 price) - it became the CPU of choice for many early home computers (8 bit Commodore and Atari products).

Unlike the 8080 and its kind, the 6502 (and 6800) had very few registers. It was an 8 bit processor, with 16 bit address bus. Inside was one 8 bit data register, two 8 bit index registers, and an 8 bit stack pointer (stack was preset from address 256 ($100 hex) to 511 ($1FF)). It used these index and stack registers effectively, with more addressing modes, including a fast zero-page mode that accessed memory addresses from address 0 to 255 ($FF) with an 8-bit address that speeded operations (it didn't have to fetch a second byte for the address).

Back when the 6502 was introduced, RAM was actually faster than microprocessors, so it made sense to optimize for RAM access rather than increase the number of registers on a chip. It also had a lower gate count (and cost) than its competitors.

The 650x also had undocumented instructions.

The CMOS 65C02/65C02S fixed some original 6502 design flaws, and the 65816 (officially W65C816S, both designed by Bill Mensch of Western Design Center Inc.) extended the 650x to 16 bits internally, including index and stack registers, with a 16-bit direct page register (similar to the 6809), and 24-bit address bus (16 bit registers plus 8 bit data/program bank registers). It included an 8-bit emulation mode. Microcontroller versions of both exist, and a 32-bit version (the 65832) is planned. Various licensed versions are supplied by GTE (16 bit G65SC802 (pin compatible with 6502), and G65SC816 (support for VM, I/D cache, and multiprocessing)) and Rockwell (R65C40), and Mitsubishi has a redesigned compatible version. The 6502 remains surprisingly popular largely because of the variety of sources and support for it.

The 6502-based Apple II line (not backwards compatible with the Apple I) was among the first microcomputers introduced and became the longest running PC line, eventually including the 65816-based Apple IIgs The 6502 was also used in the Nintendo entertainment system (NES), and the 65816 is in the 16-bit successor, the Super NES, before Nintendo switched to MIPS embedded processors.

The 6809, extending the 680x (1977)

Like the 6502, the 6809 was based on the Motorola 6800 (August 1974), though the 6809 expanded the design significantly. The 6809 had two 8 bit accumulators (A & B) and could combine them into a single 16 bit register (D). It also featured two index registers (X & Y) and two stack pointers (S & U), which allowed for some very advanced addressing modes (The 6800 had A & B (and D) accumulators, one index register and one stack register). The 6809 was source compatible with the 6800, even though the 6800 had 78 instructions and the 6809 only had around 59. Some instructions were replaced by more general ones which the assembler would translate, and some were even replaced by addressing modes. While the 6800 and 6502 both had a fast 8 bit mode to address the first 256 bytes of RAM, the 6809 had an 8 bit Direct Page register to locate this fast address page anywhere in the 64K address space.

Other features were one of the first multiplication instructions of the time, 16 bit arithmetic, and a special fast interrupt. But it was also highly optimized, gaining up to five times the speed of the 6800 series CPU. Like the 6800, it included the undocumented HCF (Halt Catch Fire) instruction to incrementally strobe the address lines for bus testing ("jump to accumulator (A or B)" in the 6800, implemented and documented as $00 in the 68HC11 which is described below).

The 6800 and 6809, like the 6502 series, used a single clock cycle to generate the timing for four internal execution stages by using the rising and falling edges of the base cycle (not just rising edges), and another clock 90 degrees out of phase (giving two rising and two falling edges per cycle) - this allowed instructions to execute in one external 'cycle' rather than four for most CPUs, such as the 8080, which used the external clock directly, so an equivalent instruction would take four cycles, meaning a 2MHz 6809 would be roughly equivalent to a 8MHz 8080. This is different from clock-doubling, which uses a phase-locked-loop to generate a faster internal clock (for the CPU) which is synchronised with an external clock (for the bus). Motorola later produced CPUs in this line with a standard four-cycle clock. The 680x and 650x only accessed memory every other cycle, allowing a peripheral (such as video, or even a second cpu) to access the same memory without conflict.

The 6800 lived on as well, becoming the 6801/3, which included ROM, some RAM, a serial I/O port, and other goodies on the chip (as an embedded controller, minimizing part counts - but expensive at 35,000 transistors. The 6805 was a cheaper 6801/3, dropping seldom used instructions and features). Later the 68HC11 version (two 8 bit/one 16 bit data register, two 16 bit index, and one 16 bit stack register, and an expanded instruction set with 16 bit multiply operations) was extended to 16 bits as the 68HC16 (additional 16-bit accumulator E, three index registers IX, IY, IZ, plus extension registers to add 4 bits to addresses and accumulator E for a 1M address space, plus 16-bit multiply registers HR and IR and 36-bit AM accumulator), and a lower cost 16 bit 68HC12 (May 1996). It remains a popular embedded processor (with over 2 billion 6800 varients sold), and radiation hardened versions of the 68HC11 have been used in communications satellites. But the 6809 was a very fast and flexible chip for its time, particularly with the addition of the OS-9 operating system.

Of course, I'm a 6809 fan myself...

As a note, Hitachi produced a version called the 6309. Compatible with the 6809, it added 2 new 8-bit registers (E and F) that could be combined to form a second 16 bit register (W), and all four 8-bit registers could form a 32 bit register (Q). It also featured hardware division, and some 32 bit arithmetic, a zero register (always 0 on read), block move, and was generally 30% faster in native mode. ALso, unlike the 6809, the 6309 could trap on an illegal instruction. These enhancements, surprisingly, never appeared in official Hitachi documentation.

Advanced Micro Devices Am2901, a few bits at a time

Bit slice processors were modular processors. Mostly, they consisted of an ALU of 1, 2, 4, or 8 bits, and control lines (including carry or overflow signals usually internal to the CPU). Two 4-bit ALUs could be arranged side by side, with control lines between them, to form an ALU of 8-bits, for example. A sequencer would execute a program to provide data and control signals.

The Am2901, from Advanced Micro Devices, was a popular 4-bit-slice processor. It featured sixteen 4-bit registers and a 4-bit ALU, and operation signals to allow carry/borrow or shift operations and such to operate across any number of other 2901s. An address sequencer (such as the 2910) could provide control signals with the use of custom microcode in ROM.

The Am2903 featured hardware multiply.

Legend holds that some Soviet clones of the PDP-11 were assembled from Soviet clones of the Am2901.

Since it doesn't fit anywhere else in this list, I'll mention it here...

AMD also produced what is probably the first floating point "coprocessor" for microprocessors, the AMD 9511 "arithmetic circuit" (1979), which performed 32 bit (23 + 7 bit floating point) RPN-style operations (4 element stack) under CPU control - the 64-bit 9512 (1980) lacked the transcendental functions. It was based on a 16-bit ALU, performed add, subtract, multiply, and divide (plus sine and cosine), and while faster than software on microprocessors of the time (about 4X speedup over a 4MHz Z-80), it was much slower (at 200+ cycles for 32*32->32 bit multiply) than more modern math coprocessors are.

It was used in some CP/M (Z-80) systems (I heard it was used on an S-100 bus math card for NorthStar systems, but that was in fact used a 74181 BCD (Binary Coded Decimal) ALU, and ten PROM chips for microcode). Calculator circuits (such as the National Semiconductor MM57109 (1980), actually a 4-bit NS COP400 processor with floating point routines in ROM) were also sometimes used, with emulated keypresses sent to it and results read back, to simplify programming rather than for speed.

Intel 8051, Descendant of the 8048.

Initially similar to the Fairchild F8, the Intel 8048 was also designed as a microcontroller rather than a microprocessor - low cost and small size was the main goal. For this reason, data is stored on-chip, while program code is external (a true Harvard architecture). The 8048 was eventually replaced by the very popular but bizarre 8051 and 8052 (available with on-chip program ROMs).

While the 8048 used 1-byte instructions, the 8051 has a more flexible 2-byte instruction set. It has eight 8-bit registers, plus an accumulator A. Data space is 128 bytes accessed directly or indirectly by a register, plus another 128 above that in the 8052 which can only be accessed indirectly (usually for a stack). External memory occupies the same address space, and can be accessed directly (in a 256 byte page via I/O ports) or through the 16 bit DPTR address register much like in the RCA 1802. Direct data above location 32 is bit-addressable. Data and program memory share the address space (and address lines, when using external memory). Although complicated, these memory models allow flexibility in embeded designs, making the 8051 very popular (over 1 billion sold since 1988).

The Siemens 80C517 adds a math coprocessor to the CPU which provides 16 and 32 bit integer support plus basic floating point assistance (32 bit normalise and shift), reminiscent of the old AMD 9511. The Texas Instruments TMS370 is similar to the 8051, Adding a B accumulator and some 16 bit support.

Microchip Technology PIC 16x/17x, call it RISC (1975)

The roots of the PIC originated at Harvard university (see Harvard Architecture) for a Defense Department project, but was beaten by a simpler (and more reliable at the time) single memory design from Princeton. Harvard Architecture was first used in the Signetics 8x300, and was adapted by General Instruments for use as a peripheral interface controller (PIC) which was designed to compensate for poor I/O in its 16 bit CP1600 CPU. The microelectronics division was eventually spun off into Arizona Microchip Technology (around 1985), with the PIC as its main product.

The PIC has a large register set (from 25 to 192 8-bit registers, compared to the Z-8's 144). There are up to 31 direct registers, plus an accumulator W, though R1 to R8 also have special functions - R2 is the PC (with implicit stack (2 to 16 level)), and R5 to R8 control I/O ports. R0 is mapped to the register R4 (FSR) points to (similar to the ISAR in the F8, it's the only way to access R32 or above).

The 16x is very simple and RISC-like (but less so than the RCA 1802 or the more recent 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontroller which is a canonical simple load-store design - 16-bit instructions, 2-stage pipeline, thirty-two 8-bit data registers (six usable as three 16-bit X, Y, and Z address registers), load/store architecture (plus data/subroutine stack)). It has only 33 fixed length 12-bit instructions, including several with a skip-on-condition flag to skip the next instruction (for loops and conditional branches), producing tight code important in embedded applications. It's marginally pipelined (2 stages - fetch and execute) - combined with single cycle execution (except for branches - 2 cycles), performance is very good for its processor catagory.

The 17x has more addressing modes (direct, indirect, and relative - indirect mode instructions take 2 execution cycles), more instructions (58 16-bit), more registers (232 to 454), plus up to 64K-word program space (2K to 8K on chip). The high end versions also have single cycle 8-bit unsigned multiply instructions.

The PIC 16x is an interesting look at an 8 bit design made with slightly newer design techniques than other 8 bit CPUs in this list - around 1978 by General Instruments (the 1650, a successor to the more general 1600). It lost out to more popular CPUs and was later sold to Microchip Technology, which still sells it for small embedded applications. An example of this microprocessor is a small PC board called the BASIC Stamp, consisting of 2 ICs - an 18-pin PIC 16C56 CPU (with a BASIC interpreter in 512 word ROM (yes, 512)) and 8-pin 256 byte serial EEPROM (also made by Microchip) on an I/O port where user programs (about 80 tokenized lines of BASIC) are stored.

Forgotten/Innovative Designs before the Great Dark Cloud

RCA 1802, weirdness at its best (1974)

The RCA 1802 was an odd beast, extremely simple and fabricated in CMOS, which allowed it to run at 6.4 MHz (at 10V, but very fast for 1974) or suspended with the clock stopped. It was a single chip version of the previous two-chip 1801, an 8 bit processor, with 16 bit addressing, but the major features were its extreme simplicity, and the flexibility of its large register set. Simplicity was the primary design goal, and in that sense it was one of the first "RISC" chips.

It had sixteen 16-bit registers, which could be accessed as thirty-two 8 bit registers, and an accumulator D used for arithmetic and memory access - memory to D, then D to registers, and vice versa, using one 16-bit register as an address. This led to one person describing the 1802 as having 32 bytes of RAM and 65535 I/O ports. A 4-bit control register P selected any one general register as the program counter, while control registers X and N selected registers for I/O Index, and the operand for current instruction. All instructions were 8 bits - a 4-bit op code (total of 16 operations) and 4-bit operand register stored in N.

There was no real conditional branching (there were conditional skips which could implement it, though), no subroutine support, and no actual stack, but clever use of the register set allowed these to be implemented - for example, changing P to another register allowed jump to a subroutine. Similarly, on an interrupt P and X were saved, then R1 and R2 were selected for P and X until an RTI restored them.

A later version, the 1805, was enhanced, adding several Forth language primitives (Forth is commonly used in control applications).

Apart from the COSMAC microcomputer kit, the 1802 saw action in some video games from RCA and Radio Shack, and the chip is the heart of the Voyager, Viking and Galileo (along with some AMD 2900 bit slice processors) probes. One reason for this is that a version of the 1802 used silicon on sapphire (SOS) technology, which leads to radiation and static resistance, ideal for space operation. It is still available from Harris Semiconductors.

Fairchild F8, Register windows

The F8 was an 8 bit processor. The processor itself didn't have an address bus - program and data memory access were contained in separate units, which reduced the number of pins, and the associated cost (though single-chip versions became available). It featured one 8-bit accumulator, and 64 "scratchpad" registers, accessed by the ISAR register in cells (windows) of eight, which meant external RAM wasn't always needed for small applications. In addition, the 2-chip processor didn't need support chips, unlike others which needed seven or more. The F8 inspired other similar CPUs, such as the Intel 8048.

The use of the ISAR register allowed a subroutine to be entered without saving a bunch of registers, speeding execution - the ISAR would just be changed. Special purpose registers were stored in the second cell (regs 9-15), and the first eight registers were accessed directly (globally). The idea was to support structured (subroutine-oriented, without gotos) programming - JUMP instructions overwrote the accumulator.

The windowing concept was useful, but only the register pointed to by the ISAR could be accessed - to access other registers the ISAR was incremented or decremented through the window.

The second chip provides the 16-bit program counter, data counter, data counter buffer (can be swapped with data counter only - like a one-element stack), and stack pointer (for subroutines only).

Fairchild ended up as part of National Semiconductor, before being spun off again in 1997.

SC/MP, early advanced multiprocessing (April 1976)

The National Semiconductor SC/MP (Single Chip/Micro Processor, nicknamed "Scamp") was a typical 8 bit processor intended for control applications (a simple BASIC 2.5K ROM was added to one version). It featured 16 bit addressing, with 12 address lines and 4 lines borrowed from the data bus (it was common to borrow lines (sometimes all of them) from the data bus for addressing - however only the lower 12 index register/PC bits were incremented (4K pages), special instructions modified upper 4 bits). Internally, it included four index registers (P1 to P3, plus the PC/P0) and two 8 bit registers. It had no stack pointer or subroutine instructions (though they could be emulated with index registers). During interrupts, the PC and P3 were swapped. It was meant for embedded control, and many features were omitted for cost reasons. It was also bit serial internally to keep it cheap.

The unique feature was the ability to completely share a system bus with other processors. Most processors of the time assumed they were the only ones accessing memory or I/O devices. Multiple SC/MPs (as well as other intelligent devices, such as DMA controllers) could be hooked up to the bus. A control line (ENOUT (Enable Out) to ENIN) could be chained along the processors to allow cooperative processing. This was very advanced for the time, compared to other CPUs, but the bit-serial CPU was slow (even simple instruction took 5-7 cycles, while memory access was 2 cycles, which allowed them to share a memory bus without saturating it, as opposed to a 6502 which could share memory with at most one other CPU, and only then because of the way the CPU clock was used). However this feature was almost never used for multiprocessing.

In addition to I/O ports like the 8080, the SC/MP also had instructions and one pin for serial input and one for output.

National semiconductor also produced the IMP series (originally cards, later microprocessors in 4, 8, 12, and 16 bit versions) and 16-bit PACE. The SC/MP was eventually replaced with the COP4 (4 bit) and COP8 (8 bit) embedded controllers, with only two index registers, but adding stack support.

F100-L, a self expanding design

The Ferranti F100-L was designed by a British company for the British Military. It was an 8 bit processor, with 16 bit addressing, but it could only access 32K of memory (1 bit for indirection).

The unique feature of the F100-L was that it had a complete control bus available for a coprocessor that could be added on. Any instruction the F100-L couldn't decode was sent directly to the coprocessor for processing. Applications for coprocessors at the time were limited, but the design is still used in some modern processors, such as the National Semiconductor 320xx series (the predecessor of the Swordfish processor, described later), which included FPU, MMU, and other coprocessors that could just be added to the CPU's coprocessor bus in a chain. Other units not foreseen could be added later.

Ferranti, which built the Ferranti Mark 1 (Britain's first commercial electronic computer), no longer makes microprocessors.

The Western Digital 3-chip CPU (June 1976)

The Western Digital MCP-1600 was probably the most flexible processor available. It consisted of at least four separate chips, including the control circuitry unit, the ALU, two or four ROM chips with customisable microcode (like the old 4-bit Texas Instruments TMS 1000), and timing circuitry. It doesn't really count as a microprocessor, but neither do bit-slice processors (AMD 2901).

The ALU chip contained twenty six 8 bit registers and an 8 bit ALU, while the control unit supervised the moving of data, memory access, and other control functions. The ROM allowed the chip to function as either an 8 bit chip or 16 bit, with clever use of the 8 bit ALU. Even more, microcode allowed the addition of floating point routines (40 + 8 bit format), simplifying programming (and possibly producing a Floating Point Coprocessor).

Two standard microcode ROMS were available. This flexibility was one reason it was also used to implement the DEC LSI-11 processor as well as the WD Pascal Microengine.

Intersil 6100, old design in a new package

The IMS 6100 was a single chip design of the PDP-8 minicomputer (1965) from DEC (low cost successor to the PDP-5 (1963)). The old PDP-8 design was very strange, and if it hadn't been so popular, an awkward CPU like the 6100 would have never had a reason to exist.

The 6100 was a 12 bit processor, which had exactly three registers - the PC, AC (an accumulator), and MQ. All 2 operand instructions read AC and MQ, and wrote back to AC. It had a 12 bit address bus, limiting RAM to only 4K. Memory references were 7 bit (128 word) offset either from address 0, or the PC.

It had no stack. Subroutines stored the PC in the first word of the subroutine code itself, so recursion wasn't possible without fancy programming.

4K RAM was pretty much hopeless for general purpose use. The 6102 support chip (included on chip in the 6120) added 3 address lines, expanding memory to 32K the same way that the PDP-8/E expanded the PDP-8. Two registers, IFR and DFR, held the page for instructions and data respectively (IFR always used until a data address was detected). At the top of the 4K page, the PC wrapped back to 0, so the last instruction on a page had to load a new value into the IFR if execution was to continue.

The PDP-8 itself was succeeded by the PDP-11 (though a version called the PDP-12 was produced, it was part of the PDP-8 series, not a replacement). The IMS 6120 was used in the DECmate (1980), DEC's original competition for the IBM PC, but lacked the processor and RAM capacity (a Z-80 or 8086 card could be added (reducing the 6120 to an I/O coprocessor) but lacked IBM PC compatability). DEC also tried competing with the 8086 based Rainbow, and the PDP-11 based PRO-325 personal computers, but none caught on.

Intersil was eventually bought by Harris Semiconductors, which produces versions of the 8088 and 8086, 1802, and 68HC05.

NOVA, another popular adaptation

Like the PDP-8, the Data General Nova was also copied, not just in one, but two implementations - the Data General MN601 (MicroNova), and Fairchild 9440. However, the NOVA (1969) was a more mature design (by PDP-8 designer Edson DeCastro, who founded Data General from DEC after an internal competition for the PDP-8 replacement chose Gordon Bell's new design which became the PDP-11, rather than DeCastro's extended PDP-8 design).

The NOVA had four 16-bit accumulators, AC0 to AC3. There were also 15-bit system registers - Program Counter, Stack pointer, and Stack Frame pointer (the last two were only on the Nova 3, MicroNova (singel-chip Nova 3), and Nova 4, not the original Nova CPU). AC2 and AC3 could be used for indexed addresses. The Fairchild CPU added a single level indirection bit, allowing 16 bit addresses. Apart from the small register set, the NOVA was an ordinary CPU design.

Another CPU, the National Semiconductor PACE, was based on the NOVA design, but featured 16 bit addressing, more addressing modes, and a 10 level stack (like the 8008), but lacked hardware multiply and divide.

The 16/32 bit ECLIPSE (1973) was Data General's higher end complement to the 16 bit Nova, adding 16 and 32-bit instructions. Like the Nova, the ECLIPSE had four 16 bit integer accumulators, added four stack registers. There are also twelve special purpose registers. Registers were expanded to 32-bits, four 64 bit floating point registers, virtual memory, and complex instructions (including a set to skip next instruction based on operation results, a primitive type of predicated instructions) were added in the MV series (1978/79) (Originally MV/Eclipse, renamed MV/8000). The ECLIPSE was eventually implemented in a microprocessor form as well.

Data General later switched architectures and became an early supporter of the Motorola 88K series load-store microprocessor in the AViiON Unix based systems (rumour had it that designers originally wanted to call it the Nova II, but that idea was rejected, so instead they reversed the name and inserted the II in the middle, switching upper and lower case. In reality, there had already been Novas up to 4, so II (meaning 2) would have been a step backward. The name "Avion" was simply chosen, and the marketing department "enhanced" it - possibly someone there picked up on the Nova/Avion near-palindrome). Rumour was that MIPS CPUs were preferred by designers, but "bad blood" between ex-DG MIPS president and current DG management overrode that decision. Unfortunately, Motorola didn't keep up with competing CPUs (eventually switching its main support to the PowerPC), forcing Data General to invest heavily in multiprocessing to boost performance, until the company gave up on Motorola and switched to Intel Pentium CPUs (as Intergraph did).

This has nothing to actually do with the Nova CPU, but is a little bit interesting anyway.

Signetics 2650, enhanced accumulator based (1978?)

Superficially similar to the PDP-8 (and IMS 6100), the Signetics 2650 was based around a set of 8 bit registers with R0 used as an accumulator, and six other registers arranged in two sets (R1A-R3A and R1B-R3B) - a status bit determined which register bank was active. The other registers were generally used for address calculations (ex. offsets) within the 15 bit address range. This kept the instruction set simple - all loads/stores to registers went through R0.

It also had a subroutine stack of eight 15 bit elements, with no provision for spilling over into memory.

Signetics was bought by Valvo, which was later bought by Phillips.

Signetics 8x300, Early cambrian DSP ancestor (1978)

Originally developed by a company called SMS, the 8x300 was bought and became a product of Signetics. Presented as a microcontroller, it had many DSP-like features (plus a bipolar fabrication) that made if very fast at the time, for some applications at least, but lacked many standard features and was slighly out of step with some conventions of the time (for example, bits were numbered in reverse, bit 0 as MSB and 7 as LSB).

The 8x300 could address sixteen registers, but some register addresses were used to specify non-register operations, so only eight 8-bit general purpose registers were available - R0 (AUX, the auxiliary register), R1 to R6, and R9 (R11 octal in assembler notation). Register R8 (OVF) was a single carry bit. In addition, an 8-bit I/O buffer register IVB was available, and is the only way to access data memory (similar to the D register in the RCA 1802) - all data was through 8-bit I/O ports, organised as two banks (left and right) of 256 each plus an address indicating which port of that bank I/O operations would use. The exact operation is specified by the source or destination register field - if it's not an actual register, then it signifies an operation. Ports could be attached directly to memory, or two ports could be used to generate an address, with another as a data buffer if more storage was needed.

The CPU consisted of multiple units strung together in a pipeline (one 16-bit instruction at a time, no overlapping stages as in modern CPUs). The first operand could be taken from the IVB (as an I/O operation from an I/O port in the left or right bank) or any of the general registers, the second operand (if any) came from the AUX register. The first operand would be processed through a rotate unit, then a mask unit, to the ALU which performed ony four operations - MOV, ADD, AND and XOR. The result would be returned either to a general register, or could would be processed through a shifter and merge unit to the IVB register (and output to the appropriate left or right I/O port) - this would allow a subfield of the IVB to be replaced by bits from the result, instead of the whole register.

The design was also limited with no interrupt support, no stack or index registers (though the port addresses could function as such), and no subroutine support (the XEC instruction would execute an instruction without incremeting the PC, and could be used to implement subroutines). Data values couldn't be accessed from program memory.

Hitachi 6301 - Small and microcoded (1983)

The HD6301 was an 8-bit CPU designed using microcode to bring the simpler design techniques of 16 and 32 bit CPUs at the time down to 8-bit designs. Inspired by the Motorola 6800, the 6301 featured A and B accumulators, one stack and one index register. These, along with the PC, were mapped to a bank of sixteen 8-bit registers (R0L, R0H, R1L etc. up to R7H), which along with two data buffer registers (DBR and DBL), and memory address registers (MARL and MARH), were accessed by the microcode to execute the CPU instructions using one 8-bit ALU and a simpler 8-bit arithmatic unit. A simple 2-stage pipeline was used.

Motorola MC14500B ICU, one bit at a time

Probably the limit in small processors was the 1 bit 14500B from Motorola. It had a 4 bit instruction, and controlled a single data read/write line, used for application control. It had no address bus - that was an external unit that was added on. Another CPU could be used to feed control instructions to the 14500B in an application.

It had only 16 pins, less than a typical RAM chip, and ran at 1 MHz.

The Great Dark Cloud Falls: IBM's Choice.

Part I: DEC PDP-11, benchmark for the first 16/32 bit generation. (1970)

The DEC PDP-11 was the most popular in the PDP (Programmed Data Processors) line of minicomputers, a successor to the previously popular PDP-8, designed in part by Gordon Bell. It remained in production until the decision to discontinue the line as of September 30, 1997 (over 25 years - see note on the DEC Alpha intended lifetime. Many of the PDP-11 features have been carried forward to newer processors because the PDP-11 was the basis for the C programming language, which became the most prolific programming language in the world (in terms of variety of applications, not number) and which includes several low level processor dependant features which were useful to replicate in newer CPUs for this reason.

The PDP-8 continued for a while in certain applications, while the PDP-10 (1967) was a higher capacity 36-bit mainframe-like system (sixteen general registers and floating point operations), much adored and rumoured to have souls.

The PDP-11 had eight general purpose 16-bit registers (R0 to R7 - R6 was also the SP and R7 was the PC). It featured powerful register oriented (little-endian, byte addressable) addressing modes. Since the PC was treated as a general purpose register, constants were loaded using an indirect mode on R7 which had the effect of loading the 16 bit word following the current instruction, then incrementing the PC to the next instruction before fetching. The SP could be accessed the same way (and any register could be used for a user stack (useful for FORTH)). A CC (or PSW) register held results from every instruction that executed.

Adjascent registers could be implicitly grouped into a 32 bit register for multiply and divide results (Multiply result stored in two registers if destination is an even register, not if it's odd. Divide source must be grouped - quotient is stored in high order (low number) register, remainder in low order).

A floating point unit could be added which contains six 64 bit accumulators (AC0 to AC5, can also be used as six 32-bit registers - values can only be loaded or stored using the first four registers).

PDP-11 addresses were 16 bits, limiting program space to 64K, though an MMU could be used to expand total address space (18-bits and 22-bits in different PDP-11 versions).

The LSI-11 (1975-ish) was a popular microprocessor implementation of the PDP-11 using the Western Digital MCP1600 microprogrammable CPU, and the architecture influenced the Motorola 68000, NS 320xx, and Zilog Z-8000 microprocessors in particular. There was also a 32-bit PDP-11 plan as far back as its 1969 introduction. The PDP-11 was finally replaced by the VAX architecture, (early versions included a PDP-11 emulation mode, and were called VAX-11).

TMS 9900, first of the 16 bits (June 1976)

One of the first true 16 bit microprocessors was the TMS 9900, by Texas Instruments (the first are probably National Semiconductor PACE or IMP-16P or AMD 2901 bit slice processors in 16 bit configuration). It was designed as a single chip version of the TI 990 minicomputer series, much like the Intersil 6100 was a single chip PDP-8, and the Fairchild 9440 and Data General mN601 were both one chip versions of Data General's Nova. Unlike the IMS 6100, however, the TMS 9900 had a mature, well thought out design.

It had a 15 bit address space and two internal 16 bit registers. One unique feature, though, was that all user registers were actually kept in memory - this included stack pointers and the program counter. A single workspace register pointed to the 16 register set in RAM, so when a subroutine was entered or an interrupt was processed, only the single workspace register had to be changed - unlike some CPUs which required a dozen or more register saves before acknowledging a context switch.

This was feasible at the time because RAM was often faster than the CPUs. A few modern designs, such as the INMOS Transputers, use this same design using caches or rotating buffers, for the same reason of improved context switches. Other chips of the time, such as the 650x series had a similar philosophy, using index registers, but the TMS 9900 went the farthest in this direction. Later versions added a write-through register buffer/cache.

That wasn't the only positive feature of the chip. It had good interrupt handling features and very good instruction set. Serial I/O was available through address lines. In typical comparisons with the Intel 8086, the TMS9900 had smaller and faster programs. The only disadvantage was the small address space and need for fast RAM.

Despite the very poor support from Texas Instruments, the TMS 9900 had the potential at one point to surpass the 8086 in popularity. TI also produced an embedded version, the TMS 9940.

Zilog Z-8000, another direct competitor

The Z-8000 was introduced not long after the 8086, but had superior features. It was basically a 16 bit processor, but could address up to 23 bits in some versions by using segment registers (to supply the upper 7 bits). There was also an unsegmented version, but both could be extended further with an additional MMU that used 64 segment registers. The Z-8070 was a memory mapped FPU.

Internally, the Z-8000 had sixteen 16 bit registers, but register size and use were exceedingly flexible - the first eight Z-8000 registers could be used as sixteen 8 bit subregisters (identified RH0, RL0, RH1 ...), or all sixteen could be grouped into eight 32 bit registers (RR0, RR2, RR4 ...), or four 64 bit registers. They were all general purpose registers - the stack pointer was typically register 15, with register 14 holding the stack segment (both accessed as one 32 bit register (RR14) for painless address calculations). The instruction set included 32-bit multiply (into 64 bits) and divide.

The Z-8000 was one of the first to feature two modes, one for the operating system and one for user programs. The user mode prevented the user from messing about with interrupt handling and other potentially dangerous stuff (each mode had its own stack register).

Finally, like the Z-80, the Z-8000 featured automatic RAM refresh circuitry. Unfortunately the processor was somewhat slow, but the features generally made up for that.

A later version, the Z-80000, was introduced about at the beginning of 1986, at about the same time as the 32 bit MC68020 and Intel 80386 CPUs, though the Z-80000 was quite a bit more advanced. It was fully expanded to 32 bits internally, giving it sixteen 32 bit physical registers (the 16 bit registers became subregisters), doubling the number of 32 bit and 64 bit registers (sixteen 8-bit and 16-bit subregisters, 32-bit physical registers, eight 64-bit double registers). The system stack remained in RR14.

In addition to the addressing modes of the Z-8000, larger 24 bit (16Mb) segment addressing was added, as well as an integrated MMU (absent in the 68020 but added later in the 68030) which included an on chip 16 line 256-byte fully associated write-through cache (which could be set to cache only data, instructions, or both, and could also be frozen by software once 'primed' - also found on later versions of the AMD 29K). It also featured multiprocessor support by defining some memory pages to be exclusive and others to be shared (and non-cacheable), with separate memory signals for each (including GREQ (Global memory REQuest) and GACK lines). There was also support for coprocessors, which would monitor the data bus and identify instructions meant for them (the CPU had two coprocessor control lines (one in, one out), and would produce any needed bus transactions).

Finally, the Z-80000 was fully pipelined (six stages), while the fully pipelined 80486 and 68040 weren't introduced until 1991.

But despite being technically advanced, the Z-8000 and Z-80000 series never met mainstream acceptance, due to initial bugs in the Z-8000 (the complex design did not use microcode - it used only 17,500 transistors) and to delays in the Z-80000. There was a radiation resistant military version, and a CMOS version of the Z-80000 (the Z-320). Zilog eventually gave up and became a second source for the AT&T WE32000 32-bit (1986) CPU instead (a VAX-like microprocessor derived from the Bellmac 32A minicomputer, which also became obsolete).

The Z-8001 was used for Commodore's CBM 900 prototype, but the Unix based machine was never released - instead, Commodore bought Amiga, and released the 68000 based machine it was designing. A few companies did produce Z-8000 based computers, with Olivetti being the most famous, and the Plexus P40 being the last - the 68000 quickly became the processor of choice.

Motorola 68000, a refined 16/32 bit CPU (September 1979)

The initial 8MHz 68000 was actually a 32 bit architecture internally, but had only a 16 bit data bus and 24 bit address bus to fit in a 64 pin package (address and data shared a bus in the 40 pin packages of the 8086 and Z-8000). Later the 68008 reduced the data bus to 8 bits and address to 20 bits, and the 68020 was fully 32 bit externally. Addresses were computed as 32 bits (without using segment registers) - unused upper bits in the 68000 or 68008 bits were ignored, but some programmers stored type tags in the upper 8 bits, causing compatibility problems with the 68020's 32 bit addresses. Lack of forced segments made programming the 68000 easier than some competing processors, without the 64K size limit on directly accessed arrays or data structures.

Looking back it was a logical design decision, since most 8 bit processors featured direct 16 bit addressing without segments.

The 68000 had sixteen 32-bit registers, split into eight data and address registers. One address register was reserved for the Stack Pointer. Data registers could be used for any operation, including offset from an address register, but not as the source of an address itself. Operations on address registers were limited to move, add/subtract, or load effective address.

Like the Z-8000, the 68000 featured a supervisor and user mode (each with its own Stack Pointer). The Z-8000 and 68000 were similar in capabilities, but the 68000 was 32 bit units internally (16 bit ALUs, making some 32-bit operations slower than 16-bit - two in parallel for 32-bit data, one for addresses), making it faster and eliminating forced segments. It was designed for expansion, including specifications for floating point and string operations (floating point was added in the 68040 (1991), with eight 80 bit floating point registers compatible with the 68881/2 coprocessors). Like many other CPUs of the time, the 68000 could fetch the next instruction during execution (a 2 stage pipeline).

The 68010 (1982) added virtual memory support (the 68000 couldn't restart interrupted instructions) and a special loop mode - small decrement-and-branch loops could be executed from the instruction fetch buffer. The 68020 (1984) expanded external data and address bus to 32 bits, simple 3-stage pipeline, and added a 256 byte cache (loop buffer), while the 68030 (1987) brought the MMU onto the chip (it supported two level pages (logical, physical) rather than the segment/page mapping of the Intel 80386 and IBM S/360 mainframe). The 68040 (January 1991) added fully cached Harvard busses (4K each for data and instructions), 6 stage pipeline, and on chip FPU.

Someone told me a Motorola techie indicated the 68000 was originally planned to use the IBM S/360 instruction set, but the MMU and architectural differences make this unlikely. The 68000 design was later involved in microprocessor versions of the IBM S/370.

The 68060 (April 1994) expanded the design to a superscalar version, like the Intel Pentium and NS320xx (Swordfish) series before it. Like the National Semiconductor Swordfish, and later the Nx586, AMD K5, and Intel's "Pentium Pro", the the third stage of the 10-stage 68060 pipeline translates the 680x0 instructions to a decoded RISC-like form (stored in a 16 entry buffer in stage four). and uses resource renaming (with fourty rename registers) to reorder instructions. There is also a branch cache, and branches are folded into the decoded instruction stream like the AT&T Hobbit and other more recent processors, then dispatched to two pipelines (three stages: Decode, addr gen, operand fetch) and finally to two of three execution units - 2 integer, 1 floating point) before reaching two 'writeback' stages. Cache sizes are doubled over the 68040.

The 68060 also also includes many innovative power-saving features (3.3V operation, execution unit pipelines could actually be shut down, reducing power consumption at the expense of slower execution, and the clock could be reduced to zero) so power use is lower than the 68040 (4-6 watts vs. 3.9-4.9). Another innovation is that simple register-register instructions which don't generate addresses may use the the address stage ALU to execute 2 cycles early.

The embedded market became the main market for the 680x0 series after workstation venders (and the Apple Macintosh) turned to faster load-store processors, so a variety of embedded versions were introduced. Later, Motorola designed a successor called Coldfire (early 1995), in which complex instructions and addressing modes (added to the 68020) were removed and the instruction set was recoded, simplifying it at the expense of compatibility (source only, not binary) with the 680x0 line.

The Coldfire 52xx (version 2 - the 51xx version 1 was a 68040-based/compatible core) architecture resmbles a stripped (single pipeline) 68060, The 5 stage pipeline is literally folded over itself - after two fetch stages and a 12-byte buffer, instructions pass through the decode and address generate stages, then loop back so the decode becomes the operand fetch stage, and the address generate becomes the execute stage (so only one ALU is required for address and execution calculations). Simple (non-memory) instructions don't need to loop back. There is no translator stage as in the 68060 because Coldfire instructions are already in RISC-like form. The 53xx added a multiply-accumulate (MAC) unit and internal clock doubling. The 54xx adds branch and assignment folding with other instructions for a cheap form of superscalar execution with little added complexity, and uses a Harvard architecture for faster memory access, plus enhancements to the instruciton set to improve code density, performance, and to add fleximility to the MAC unit.

At a quarter the physical size and a fraction of the power consumption, Coldfire is about as fast as a 68040 at the same clock rate, but the smaller design allows a faster clock rate to be acheived.

Few people wonder why Apple chose the Motorola 68000 for the Macintosh, while IBM's decision to use Intel's 8088 for the IBM PC has baffled many. It wasn't a straightforward decision though. The Apple Lisa was the predecessor to the Macintosh, and also used a 68000 (eventually - 8086 and slower bitslice CPUs (which Steve Wozniak thought were neat) were initially considered before the 68000 was available). It also included a fully multitasking, GUI based operating system, highly integrated software, high capacity (but incompatible) 'twiggy' 5 1/4" disk drives, and a large workstation-like monitor. It was better than the Macintosh in almost every way, but was correspondingly more expensive.

The Macintosh was to include the best features of the Lisa, but at an affordable price - in fact the original Macintosh came with only 128K of RAM and no expansion slots. Cost was such a factor that the 8 bit Motorola 6809 was the original design choice, and some prototypes were built, but they quickly realised that it didn't have the power for a GUI based OS, and they used the Lisa's 68000, borrowing some of the Lisa low level functions (such as graphics toolkit routines) for the Macintosh.

Competing personal computers such as the Amiga and Atari ST, and early workstations by Sun, Apollo, NeXT and most others also used 680x0 CPUs (including one of the earliest workstations, the Tandy TRS-80 Model 16, which used a 68000 CPU and Z-80 for I/O and VM support (the 68000 could not restart an instruction stopped by a memory exception, so it was suspended while the Z-80 loaded the page)).

National Semiconductor 32032, similar but different

Like the 68000, the 320xx family consisted of a CPU which was 32-bit internally, and 16 bits externally (later also 32 and 8), as indicated by the first and last two digits (originally reversed, but 16032 just seemed less impressive). It appeared a little later than the others here, and so was not really a choice for the IBM PC, but is still representative of the era.

Elegance and regular design was a main goal of this processor, as well as completeness. It was similar to the 68000 in basic features, such as byte addressing, 24-bit address bus in the first version, memory to memory instructions, and so on (The 320xx also includes a string and array instruction). Unlike the 68000, the 320xx had eight instead of sixteen 32-bit registers, and they were all general purpose, not split into data and address registers. There was also a useful scaled-index addressing mode, and unlike other CPUs of the time, only a few operations affected the condition codes (as in more modern CPUs).

Also different, the PC and stack registers were separate from the general register set - they were special purpose registers, along with the interrupt stack, and several "base registers" to provide multitasking support - the base data register pointed to the working memory of the current module (or process), the interrupt base register pointed to a table of interrupt handling procedures anywhere in memory (rather than a fixed location), and the module register pointed to a table of active modules.

The 320xx also had a coprocessor bus, similar to the 8-bit Ferranti F100-L CPU, and coprocessor instructions. Coprocessors included an MMU, and a Floating Point unit which included eight 32-bit registers, which could be used as four 64-bit registers.

The series found use mainly in embedded applications, and was expanded to that end, with timers, graphics enhancements, and even a Digital Signal Processor unit in the Swordfish version (1991, also known as 32732 and 32764). The Swordfish was among the first truely supserscalar microprocessors, with two 5-stage pipelines (integer A, and B, which consisted of an integer and floating point pipeline - an instruction dispatched to B would execute in the appropriate pipe, leaving the other with an empty slot. The integer pipe could cycle twice in the memory stage to synchronise with the result of the floating point pipe, to ensure in-order completion when floating point operations could trap. B could also execute branches). This strategy was influenced by the Multiflow VLIW design. Instructions were always fetched two at a time from the instruction cache which partially decoded the instruction pairs and set a bit to indicate whether they were dependent or could be issued simultaneously (effectively generating two-word VLIWs in the cache from an external stream of instructions). The cache decoder also generated branch target addresses to reduce branch latency as in the AT&T CRISP/Hobbit CPU.

The Swordfish implemented the NS32K instruction set using a reduced instruction core - NS32K instructions were translated by the cache decoder into either: one internal instruction, a pair of internal instructions in the cache, or a partially decoded NS32K instruction which would be fully decoded into internal instructions after being fetched by the CPU. The Swordfish also had dynamic bus resizing (8, 16, 32, or 64 bits, allowing 2 instructions to be fetched at once) and clock doubling, 2 DMA channels, and in circuit emulation (ICE) support for debugging.

The Swordfish was later simplified into a load-store design and used to implement an instruction set called CompactRISC (also known as Pirhana, an implementation independent instruction set supporting designs from 8 to 64 bits).

It seems interesting to note that in the case of the NS320xx and Z-80000, non mainstream processors gained many advanced design features well ahead of the more mainstream processors, which presumably had more development resources available. One possible reason for this is the greater importance of compatibility in processors used for computers and workstations, which limits the freedom of the designers. Or perhaps the non-mainstream processors were just more flexible designs to begin with. Or some might not have made it to the mainstream because the more ambitious designs resulted in more implementation bugs than competitors.

MIL-STD-1750 - Military artificial intelligence (February 1979)

The USAF created a draft standard for a 16-bit microprocessor meant to be used in all airborn computers and weapons systems, allowing software developed for one such system to be portable to other similar applications, similar to the intent behind the creation of Ada as the standard high level programming language for the U.S Department of Defense (MIL-STD-1815 accepted October 1979 - 1815 was the year Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace and the world's first programmer, was born).

Like other 16 bit designs of the time, 1750 was inspired by the PDP-11, but differs significantly. Sixteen 16-bit registers were specified, and any adjascent pairs (such as R0+R1 or R1+R2) could be used as 32-bit registers (the Z-8000 and PDP-11 could only use even pairs, and the PDP-11 only for specific uses) for integer or floating point (FP) values (no separate FP registers), or triples for 48-bit extended precision FP (with the mantissa concatenated after the exponent - eg. 32-bit FP was [1s][23mantissa][8exp], 48-bit was [1s][23mantissa][8exp][16ext], meaning any 48-bit FP was also a valid 32-bit FP, only losing the extra precision). Also, only the upper four registers (R12 to R15) could be used as an address base (2 instruction bits instead of 4), and R0 can't be used as an index (using R0 implies no indexing, similar to the PowerPC. R15 is used as an implicit stack pointer, the program counter is not user accessible.

Address space is 16 bit word addressed (not bytes), but the design allows for an MMU to extend this to 20 bits. In addition, program and data memory can be separated using the MMU. A 4-bit Address State field in the processor status word (PSW) selects one of sixteen page groups, each containing sixteen registers for data memory and another sixteen for program memory (16x16x2 = 512 total). The top 4 bits of an address selects a register from the current AS group, which provides the upper 8 bits of a 20 bit address.

Each page register also has a 4-bit access key. While other CPUs at the time provided user and supervisor modes, the 1750 provided for sixteen modes, from supervisor (mode 0, could access all pages), fourteen user modes (1 to 14 can only access page with same key, or key 15), and an unprivledged mode (mode 15 can only access page with key 15). Program memory can occupy the same logical address space as data, but will select from the program page registers. Pages can also be write or execute protected.

Several I/O instructions are also included, and are used to access processor state registers.

The 1750 is a very practical 16 bit design, and is still being produced, mainly in expensive radiation resistant forms. It did not achieve widespread acceptance, likely because of the rapid advance of technology and the rise of the RISC paradigm.

Intel 8086, IBM's choice (1978)

The Intel 8086 was based on the design of the 8080/8085 (source compatible with the 8080) with a similar register set, but was expanded to 16 bits. The Bus Interface Unit fed the instruction stream to the Execution Unit through a 6 byte prefetch queue, so fetch and execution were concurrent - a primitive form of pipelining (8086 instructions varied from 1 to 4 bytes).

It featured four 16 bit general registers, which could also be accessed as eight 8 bit registers, and four 16 bit index registers (including the stack pointer). The data registers were often used implicitly by instructions, complicating register allocation for temporary values. It featured 64K 8-bit I/O (or 32K 16-bit) ports and fixed vectored interrupts. There were also four segment registers that could be set from index registers.

The segment registers allowed the CPU to access 1 meg of memory through an odd process. Rather than just supplying missing bytes, as most segmented processors, the 8086 actually added the segment registers ( X 16, or shifted left 4 bits) to the address. As a strange result of this unsuccessful attempt at extending the address space without adding address bits, it was possible to have two pointers with the same value point to two different memory locations, or two pointers with different values pointing to the same location, and limited typical data structures to less than 64K. Most people consider this a brain damaged design (a better method might have been that developed for the MIL-STD-1750 MMU).

Although this was largely acceptable for assembly language, where control of the segments was complete (it could even be useful then), in higher level languages it caused constant confusion (ex. near/far pointers). Even worse, this made expanding the address space to more than 1 meg difficult. The 80286 (1982?) expanded the design to 32 bits only by adding a new mode (switching from 'Real' to 'Protected' mode was supported, but switching back required using a bug in the original 80286, which then had to be preserved) which greatly increased the number of segments by using a 16 bit selector for a 'segment descriptor', which contained the location within a 24 bit address space, size (still less than 64K), and attributes (for Virtual Memory support) of a segment.

But all memory access was still restricted to 64K segments until the 80386 (1985), which included much improved addressing: base reg + index reg * scale (1, 2, 4 or 8 bits) + displacement (8 or 32 bit constant = 32 bit address) in the form of paged segments (using six 16-bit segment registers), like the IBM S/360 series, and unlike the Motorola 68030). It also had several processor modes (including separate paged and segmented modes) for compatibility with the previous awkward design. In fact, with the right assembler, code written for the 8008 can still be run on the most recent Pentium Pro. The 80386 also added an MMU, security modes (called "rings" of privledge - kernal, system services, application services, applications) and new op codes in a fashion similar to the Z-80 (and Z-280).

The 8087 was a floating point coprocessor which helped define the IEEE-754 floating point format and standard operations (the main competition was the VAX floating point format), and was based on an eight element stack of 80-bit values.

The 80486 (1989) added full pipelines, single on chip 8K cache, FPU on-chip, and clock doubling versions (like the Z-280). Later, FPU-less 80486SX versions plus 80487 FPUs were introduced - initially these were normal 80486es where one unit or the other had failed testing, but versions with only one unit were produced later (smaller dies and reduced testing reduced costs).

The Pentium (late 1993) was superscalar (up to two instructions at once in dual integer units and single FPU) with separate 8K I/D caches. "Pentium" was the name Intel gave the 80586 version because it could not legally protect the name "586" to prevent other companies from using it - and in fact, the Pentium compatible CPU from NexGen is called the Nx586 (early 1995). Due to its popularity, the 80x86 line has been the most widely cloned processors, from the NEC V20/V30 (slightly faster clones of the 8088/8086 (could also run 8085 code)), AMD and Cyrix clones of the 80386 and 80486, to versions of the Pentium within less than two years of its introduction.

MMX (initially reported as MultiMedia eXtension, but later said by Intel to mean Matrix Math eXtension) is very similar to the earlier SPARC VIS or HP-PA MAX, or later MIPS MDMX instructions - they perform integer operations on vectors of 8, 16, or 32 bit words, using the 80 bit FPU stack elements as eight 64 bit registers (switching between FPU and MMX modes as needed - it's very difficult to use them as a stack and as MMX registers at the same time). The P55C Pentium version (January 1997) is the first Intel CPU to include MMX instructions, followed by the AMD K6, and Pentium II. Cyrix also added these instructions in its M2 CPU (6x86MX, June 1997), as well as IDT with its C6.

Interestingly, the old architecture is such a barrier to improvements that most of the Pentium compatible CPUs (NexGen Nx586/Nx686, AMD K5, IDT-C6), and even the "Pentium Pro" (Pentium's successor, late 1995) don't clone the Pentium, but emulate it with specialized hardware decoders like those introduced in the VAX 8700 and used in a simpler form by the National Semiconductor Swordfish, which convert Pentium instructions to RISC-like instructions which are executed on specially designed superscalar RISC-style cores faster than the Pentium itself. Intel also used BiCMOS in the Pentium and Pentium Pro to achieve clock rates competitive with CMOS load-store processors (the Pentium P55C (early 1997) version is a pure CMOS design).

IBM had been developing hardware or software to translate Pentium instructions for the PowerPC in a similar manner as part of the PowerPC 615 CPU (able to switch between instruction 80x86, 32-bit and 64-bit PowerPC instruction sets in five cycles (to drain the execution pipeline)), but the project was killed after significant development for marketing reasons. Rumour has it that engineers who worked on the project went on to Transmeta corporation.

The Cyrix 6x86 (early 1996), initially manufactured by IBM before Cyrix merged with National Semiconductor, still directly executes 80x86 instructions (in two integer and one FPU pipeline), but partly out of order, making it faster than a Pentium at the same clock speed. Cyrix also sold an integrated version with graphics and audio on-chip called the MediaGX. MMX instructions were added to the 6x86MX, and 3DNow! graphics instructions to the 6x86MXi. The M3 (mid 1998) turned to superpipelining (eleven stages compared to six (seven?) for the M2) for a higher clock rate (partly for marketing purposes, as MHz is often preferred to performance in the PC market), and was to provide dual floating point/MMX/3DNow! units. The Cyrix division of National Semiconductor was purchased by PC chipset maker Via, and the M3 was cancelled. National Semiconductor continued with the integrated Geode low-power/cost CPU.

The Pentium Pro (P6 execution core) is a 1 or 2-chip (CPU plus 256K or 512K L2 cache - I/D L1 cache (8K each) is on the CPU), 14-stage superpipelined processor. It uses extensive multiple branch prediction and speculative execution via register renaming. Three decoders (one for complex instructions, two for simpler ones (four or fewer micro-ops)) each decode one 80x86 instruction into micro-ops (one per simple decoder + up to four from the complex decoder = three to six per cycle). Up to five (usually three) micro-ops can be issued in parallel and out of order (six units - single FPU, two integer, two address, one load/store), but are held and retired (results written to registers or memory) as a group to prevent an inconsistant state (equivalent to half an instruction being executed when an interrupt occurs, for example). 80x86 instructions may produce several micro-ops in CPUs like this (and the Nx586 and AMD K5), so the actual instruction rate is lower. In fact, due to problems handling instruction alignment in the Pentium Pro, emulated 16-bit instructions execute slower than on a Pentium. The Pentium II (April 1997) added MMX instructions to the P6 core, doubled cache to 32K, and was packaged in a processor card instead of an IC package. The Pentium III added Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) to the P6 core, which included eight 128-bit registers which could be used as vectors of four 32-bit integer of floating point values (like the PowerPC AltiVec extensions, but with fewer operations or data types). Unlike MMX (and like AltiVec), the SSE registers need to be saved seperately during context switches, requiring OS modifications.

The P7 (originally referred to a 64-bit 80x86 which was dropped in favour of the IA-64) was first released as the Pentium 4 in December 2000.

AMD was a second source for Intel CPUs as far back as the AMD 9080 (AMD's version of the Intel 8080). The AMD K5 translates 80x86 code to ROPs (RISC OPerations), which execute on a RISC-style core based on the unproduced superscalar AMD 29K. Up to four ROPs can be dispatched to six units (two integer, one FPU, two load/store, one branch unit), and five can be retired at a time. The complexity led to low clock speeds for the K5, prompting AMD to buy NexGen and integrate its designs for the next generation K6.

The NexGen/AMD Nx586 (early 1995) is unique by being able to execute its micro-ops (called RISC86 code) directly, allowing optimised RISC86 programs to be written which are faster than an equivalent x86 program would be, but this feature is seldom used. It also features two 16K I/D L1 caches, a dedicated L2 cache bus (like that in the Pentium Pro 2-chip module) and an off-chip FPU (either separate chip, or later as in 2-chip module).

The Nx586 sucessor, the K6 (April 1997) actually has three caches - 32K each for data and instructions, and a half-size 16K cache containing instruction decode information. It also brings the FPU on-chip and eliminates the dedicated cache bus of the Nx586, allowing it to be pin-compatible with the P54C model Pentium. Another decoder is added (two complex decoders, compared to the Pentium Pro's one complex and two simple decoders) producing up to four micro-ops and issuing up to six (to seven units - load, store, complex/simple integer, FPU, branch, multimedia) and retiring four per cycle. It includes MMX instructions, licensed from Intel, and AMD has designed and added 3DNow! graphics extensions without waiting for Intel's SSE additions.

AMD aggressively pursued a superscalar (fourteen-stage pipeline) design for the Athlon (K7, mid 1999), decoding x86 instructions into 'MacroOps' (made up of one or two 'micro-ops', a process similar to the branch folding in the AT&T Hobbit or instruction grouping in the T9000 Transputer and the Motorola 54xx Coldfire CPU) in two decoders (one for simple and one for complex instructions) producing up to three MacroOps per cycle. Up to nine decoded operations per cycle can be issued in six MacroOps to six functional units (three integer, each able to execute one simple integer and one address op simultaneously, and three FPU/MMX/3DNow! instructions (FMUL mul/div/sqrt, FADD simple/comparisons, FSTORE load/store/move) with extensive stack and register renaming, and a separate integer multiply unit which follows integer ALU 0, and can forward results to either ALU 0 or 1). The K7 replaces the Intel-compatible bus of the K6 with the high speed Alpha EV6 bus because Intel decided to prevent competitors from using its own higher speed bus designs (Dirk Meyer was director of engineering for the K7, as well as co-architect of the Alpha 21064 and 21264). This makes it easier to use either Alpha or AMD K7 processors in a single design. At introduction, the K7 managed to out-perform Intel's fastest P6 CPU (Intel's P7 equivalent (Pentium 4) may have taken longer due to concentrating on the development of the IA-64 architecture).

Centaur, a subsidiary of Integrated Device Technology, introduced the IDT-C6 WinChip (May 1997), which uses a much simpler (6-stage, 2 way integer/simple-FPU execution) desgn than Intel and AMD translation-based designs by using micro-ops more closely resembling 80x86 than RISC code, which allows for a higher clock rate and larger L1 (32K each I/D) and TLB caches in a lower cost, lower power consumption design. Simplifications include replacing branch prediction (less important with a short pipeline) with an eight entry call/return stack, depending more on caches. The FPU unit includes MMX support. The C6+ version adds second FPU/MMX unit and 3D graphics enhancements.

Like Cyrix, Centaur opted for a superpipelined eleven-stage design for added performance, combined with sophisticated early branch prediction in its WinChip 4. The design also pays attention to supporting common code sequences - for example, loads occur earlier in the pipeline than stores, allowing load-alu-store sequences to be more efficient.

Cyrix division of National Semiconductor and the Centaur division of IDT were bought by Korean motherboard chipset maker Via. The Cyrix CPU was cancelled, and the Centaur design was given the "Cyrix III" brand instead.

Intel, with partner Hewlett-Packard, developed a next generation 64-bit processor architecture called IA-64 (the 80x86 design was renamed IA-32). It's expectged to be compatible in some way with both the PA-RISC and 80x86, faster than the original CPUs. If native IA-64 code is even faster, this may finally produce the incentive to let the 80x86 architecture finally fade away.

On the other hand, the demand for compatibility will remain a strong market force. AMD announced its intention to extend the K7 design to produce a 64-bit 80x86 compatible K8 (codenamed "Sledgehammer", then changed to just "Hammer"), in competition with the Intel Merced.

So why did IBM chose the 8-bit 8088 (1979) version of the 8086 for the IBM 5150 PC (1981) when most of the alternatives were so much better? Apparently IBM's own engineers wanted to use the 68000, and it was used later in the forgotten IBM Instruments 9000 Laboratory Computer, but IBM already had rights to manufacture the 8086, in exchange for giving Intel the rights to its bubble memory designs. IBM was using 8086s in the IBM Displaywriter word processor (the 8080 and 8085 were also used in other products).

Other factors were the fact that the the 8-bit 8088 could use existing low cost 8085-type components, and allowed the computer to be based on a modified 8085 design. 68000 components were not widely available, though it could use 6800 components to an extent. After the failure and expense of the IBM 5100 (1975, their first attempt at a peronal computer - discrete random logic CPU with no bus, built in BASIC and APL as the OS, 16K RAM and 5 inch monochrome monitor - $10,000!), cost was a large factor in the design of the PC.

The availability of CP/M-86 is also likely a factor, since CP/M was the operating system standard for the computer industry at the time. However Digital Research founder Gary Kildall was unhappy with the legal demands of IBM, so Microsoft, a programming language company, was hired instead to provide the operating system (initially known at varying times as QDOS, SCP-DOS, and finally 86-DOS, it was purchased by Microsoft from Seattle Computer Products and renamed MS-DOS).

Digital Research did eventually produce CP/M 68K for the 68000 series, making the operating system choice less relevant than other factors.

Intel bubble memory was on the market for a while, but faded away as better and cheaper memory technologies arrived.

Unix and RISC, a New Hope

TRON, between the ages (1987)

TRON stands for The Real-time Operating Nucleus, and was a grand scheme devised by conceived by Prof. Takeshi Sakamura of the University of Tokyo around 1984 to design a unified architecture for computer systems from the CPU, to operating systems and languages, to large scale networks. The TRON CPU was designed just as load-store architectures were set to rise, but retained the memory-data design philosophies - it could be considered a last gasp, though that doesn't do justice to the intent behind the design and its part in the TRON architecture.

The basic design is scalable, from 32 to 48 and 64 bit designs, with 16 general purpose registers. It is a memory-data instruction set, but an elegant one. One early design was the Mitsubishi M32 (mid 1987), which optimised the simple and often used TRON instructions, much like the 80486 and 68040 did. It featured a 5 stage pipeline, dynamic branch prediction with a target branch buffer similar to that in the AMD 29K. It also featured an instruction prefetch queue, but being a prototype, had no MMU support or FPU.

Commercial versions such as the Gmicro/200 (1988) and other Gmicro/ from Fujitsu/Hitachi/Mitsubishi, and the Toshiba Tx1 were also introduced, and a 64 bit version (CHIP64) began development, but they didn't catch on in the non-Japanese market (definitive specifications or descriptions of the OS's actual operation were hard to come by, while research systems like Mach of BSD Unix were widely available for experimentation). In addition, newer techniques (such as load-store designs) overshadowed the TRON standard. Companies such as Hitachi switched to load-store designs, and many American companies (Sun, MIPS) licensed their (faster) designs openly to Japanese companies. TRON's promise of a unified architecture (when complete) was less important to companies than raw performance and immediate compatibility (Unix, MS-DOS/MS Windows, Macintosh), and has not become significant in the industry, though TRON operating system development continued as an embedded and distributed operating system (such as the Intelligent House project, or more recently the TiPO handheld digital assistant from Seiko (February 1997)) implemented on non-TRON CPUs.

NEC produced a similar memory-data design around the same time, the V60/V70 series, using thirty two registers, a seven stage pipeline, and preprocessed branches. NEC later developed the 32-bit load-store V800 series, and became a source of 64-bit MIPS load-store processors.

SPARC, an extreme windowed RISC (1987)

SPARC, or the Scalable (originally Sun) Processor ARChitecture was designed by Sun Microsystems for their own use. Sun was a maker of workstations, and used standard 68000-based CPUs and a standard operating system, Unix. Research versions of load-store processors had promised a major step forward in speed [See Appendix A], but existing manufacturers were slow to introduce a RISC processor, so Sun went ahead and developed its own (based on Berkeley's design). In keeping with their open philosophy, they licensed it to other companies, rather than manufacture it themselves.

SPARC was not the first RISC processor. The AMD 29000 (see below) came before it, as did the MIPS R2000 (based on Stanford's experimental design) and Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC CPU, among others. The SPARC design was radical at the time, even omitting multiple cycle multiply and divide instructions (added in later versions), using single-cycle "step" instructions instead, while most RISC CPUs were more conventional.

SPARC usually contains about 128 or 144 integer registers, (memory-data designs typically had 16 or less). At each time 32 registers are available - 8 are global, the rest are allocated in a 'window' from a stack of registers. The window is moved 16 registers down the stack during a function call, so that the upper and lower 8 registers are shared between functions, to pass and return values, and 8 are local. The window is moved up on return, so registers are loaded or saved only at the top or bottom of the register stack. This allows functions to be called in as little as 1 cycle. later versions added a FPU with thirty-two (non-windowed) registers. Like most RISC processors, global register zero is wired to zero to simplify instructions, and SPARC is pipelined for performance (a new instruction can start execution before a previous one has finished), but not as deeply as others - like the MIPS CPUs, it has branch delay slots. Also like previous processors, a dedicated condition code register (CCR) holds comparison results.

SPARC is 'scalable' mainly because the register stack can be expanded (up to 512, or 32 windows), to reduce loads and saves between functions, or scaled down to reduce interrupt or context switch time, when the entire register set has to be saved. Function calls are usually much more frequent than interrupts, so the large register set is usually a plus, but compilers now can usually produce code which uses a fixed register set as efficiently as a windowed register set across function calls.

SPARC is not a chip, but a specification, and so there are various designs of it. It has undergone revisions, and now has multiply and divide instructions. Original versions were 32 bits, but 64 bit and superscalar versions were designed and implemented (beginning with the Texas Instruments SuperSparc in late 1992), but performance lagged behind other load-store and even Intel 80x86 processors until the UltraSPARC (late 1995) from Texas Instruments and Sun, and superscalar HAL/Fujitsu SPARC64 multichip CPU. Most emphasis by licensees other than Sun and HAL/Fujitsu has been on low cost, embedded versions.

The UltraSPARC is a 64-bit superscalar processor series which can issue up to four instructions at once (but not out of order) to any of nine units: two integer units, two of the five floating point/graphics units (add, add and multiply, divide and square root), the branch and two load/store units. The UltraSPARC also added a block move instruction which bypasses the caches (2-way 16K instr, 16K direct mapped data), to avoid disrupting it, and specialized pixel operations (VIS - the Visual Instruction Set) which can operate in parallel on 8, 16, or 32-bit integer values packed in a 64-bit floating point register (for example, four 8 X 16 -> 16 bit multiplications in a 64 bit word, a sort of simple SIMD/vector operation. More extensive than the Intel MMX instructions, or earlier HP PA-RISC MAX and Motorola 88110 graphics extensions, VIS also includes some 3D to 2D conversion, edge processing and pixes distance (for MPEG, pattern-matching support).

The UltraSPARC I/II were architecturally the same. The UltraSPARC III (mid-2000) did not add out-of-order execution, on the grounds that memory latency eliminates any out-of-order benefit, and did not increase instruction parallelism after measuring the instructions in various applications (although it could dispatch six, rather than four, to the functional units, in a fourteen-stage pipeline). It concentrated on improved data and instruction bandwidth.

The HAL/Fujitsu SPARC64 series (used in Fujitsu servers using Sun Solaris software) can issue up to four in order instructions simultaneously to four buffers, which issue to four integer, two floating point, two load/store, and the branch unit, and may complete out of order unlike UltraSPARC (an instruction completes when it finishes without error, is committed when all instructions ahead of it have completed, and is retired when its resources are freed - these are 'invisible' stages in the SPARC64 pipeline). A combination of register renaming, a branch history table, and processor state storage (like in the Motorola 88K) allow for speculative execution while maintaining precise exceptions/interrupts (renamed integer, floating, and CC registers - trap levels are also renamed and can be entered speculatively).

The SPARC64 V (expected late 2000) is agressively out-of-order, concentrating on branch prediction more than load latency, although it does include data speculation (loaded data are used before they are known to be valid - if it turns out to be invalid, the load operation is repeated, but this is still a win if data is usually valid (in the L1 cache)). It can dispatch six to eight instructions to: four integer units, two FPU (one with VIS support), two load units and two store units (store takes one cycle, load takes at least two, so the units are separate, unlike other designs). It has a nine stage pipeline for single-cycle instructions (up to twelve for more complex operations), with integer and floating point registers part of the integer/floating point reorder buffers allowing operands to be fetched before dispatching instructions to execution pipe segments.

Instructions are predecoded in cache, incorporating some ideas from dataflow designs - source operands are replaced with references to the instructions which produce the data, rather than matching up an instructions source registers with destination registers of earlier instructions during result forwarding in the execution stage. The cache also performs basic block trace scheduling to form issue packets, something normally reserved for compilers.

Pairity or error checking and correction bits are used in internal busses, and the CPU will actually restart the instruction stream after certain errors (logged to registers which can be checked to indicate a failing CPU which should be replaced).

All this complexity comes at a 100W price.

AMD 29000, a flexible register set (1987)

The AMD 29000 is another load-store CPU descended from the Berkeley RISC design (and the IBM 801 project), as a modern successor to the earlier 2900 bitslice series (beginning around 1981). Like the SPARC design that was introduced shortly later, the 29000 has a large set of registers split into local and global sets. But though it was introduced before the SPARC, it has a more elegant method of register management.

The 29000 has 64 global registers, in comparison to the SPARC's eight. In addition, the 29000 allows variable sized windows allocated from the 128 register stack cache. The current window or stack frame is indicated by a stack pointer (a modern version of the ISAR register in the Fairchild F8 CPU), a pointer to the caller's frame is stored in the current frame, like in an ordinary stack (directly supporting stack languages like C, a CISC-like philosophy). Spills and fills occur only at the ends of the cache, and registers are saved/loaded from the memory stack (normally implemented as a register cache separate from the execution stack, similar to the way FORTH uses stacks). This allows variable window sizes, from 1 to 128 registers. This flexibility, plus the large set of global registers, makes register allocation easier than in SPARC (optimised stack operations also make it ideal for a stack-oriented interpreted languages such as PostScript, making it popular as a laser printer controller).

There is no special condition code register - any general register is used instead, allowing several condition codes to be retained, though this sometimes makes code more complex. An instruction prefetch buffer (using burst mode) ensures a steady instruction stream. Branches to another stream can cause a delay, so the first four new instructions are cached - next time a cached branch (up to sixteen) is taken, the cache supplies instructions during the initial memory access delay.

Registers aren't saved during interrupts, allowing the interrupt routine to determine whether the overhead is worthwhile. In addition, a form of register access control is provided. All registers can be protected, in blocks of 4, from access. These features make the 29000 useful for embedded applications, which is where most of these processors are used, allowing it at one point to claim the title of 'the most popular RISC processor'. The 29000 also includes an MMU and support for the 29027 FPU. The 29030 added Harvard-style busses and caches (though oddly, instructions and data still shared the address bus). The superscalar 29050 version in 1990 integrated a redesigned FPU (executing in parallel with the integer unit), and a more superscalar version was planned but cancelled, featuring 6 functional units (two integer units, one FPU, a branch and two load/store units), allowing instructions to be dispatched out of order with register renaming and speculatively. The 29050 also added two condition code accumulators gr2 and gr3 (OR-combine instead of overwriting, like the PowerPC CCR register).

Advanced Micro Devices retargeted it as an embedded processor (introducing the 292xx series), and in late 1995 dropped development of the 29K in favour of its more profitable clones of Intel 80x86 processors, although much of the development of the superscalar core for a new AMD 29000 (including FPU designs from the 29050) was shared with the 'K5' (1995) Pentium compatible processor (the 'K5' translates 80x86 instructions to RISC-like instructions, and dispatches up to five at once to the functional units (see above).

Most of the 29K principles did live on in the Intel/HP IA-64 architecture.

Siemens 80C166, Embedded load-store with register windows.

The Siemens 80C166 was designed as a very low-cost embedded 8/16-bit load-store processor, with RAM (1 to 2K) kept on-chip for lower cost. This leads to some unusual versions of normal RISC features.

The 80C166 has sixteen 16 bit registers, with the lower eight usable as sixteen 8 bit registers, which are stored in overlapping windows (like in the SPARC) in the on-chip RAM (or register bank), pointed to by the Context Pointer (CP) (similar to the SP in the AMD 29K). Unlike the SPARC, register windows can overlap by a variable amount (controlled by the CP), and the there are no spills or fills because the registers are considered part of the RAM address space (like in the TMS 9900), and could even extend to off chip RAM. This eliminates wasted registers of SPARC style windows.

Address space (18 to 24 bits) is segmented (64K code segments with a separate code segment register, 16K data segments with upper two bits of 16 bit address selecting one of four data segment registers).

The 80C166 has 32 bit instructions, while it's a 16 bit processor (compared to the Hitachi SH, which is a 32 bit CPU with 16 bit instructions). It uses a four stage pipeline, with a limited (one instruction) branch cache.

MIPS R2000, the other approach. (June 1986)

The R2000 design came from the Stanford MIPS project, which stood for Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages [See Appendix A], and was arguably the first commercial RISC processor (other candidates are the ARM and IBM ROMP used in the IBM PC/RT workstation, which was designed around 1981 but delayed until 1986). It was intended to simplify processor design by eliminating hardware interlocks between the five pipeline stages. This means that only single execution cycle instructions can access the thirty two 32 bit general registers, so that the compiler can schedule them to avoid conflicts. This also means that LOAD/STORE and branch instructions have a 1 cycle delay to account for. However, because of the importance of multiply and divide instructions, a special HI/LO pair of multiply/divide registers exist which do have hardware interlocks, since these take several cycles to execute and produce scheduling difficulties.

Like the AMD 29000 and DEC Alpha, the R2000 has no condition code register considering it a potential bottleneck. The PC is user readable. The CPU includes an MMU unit that can also control a cache, and the CPU was one of the first which could operate as a big or little endian processor. An FPU, the R2010, is also specified for the processor.

Newer versions included the R3000 (1988), with improved cache control, and the R4000 (1991) (expanded to 64 bits and is superpipelined (twice as many pipeline stages do less work at each stage, allowing a higher clock rate and twice as many instructions in the pipeline at once, at the expense of increased latency when the pipeline can't be filled, such as during a branch, (and requiring interlocks added between stages for compatibility, making the original "I" in the "MIPS" acronym meaningless))). The R4400 and above integrated the FPU with on-chip caches. The R4600 and later versions abandoned superpipelines.

The superscalar R8000 (1994) was optimised for floating point operation, issuing two integer or load/store operations (from four integer and two load/store units) and two floating point operations simultaneously (FP instructions sent to the independent R8010 floating point coprocessor (with its own set of thirty-two 64-bit registers and load/store queues)).

The R10000 and R12000 versions (early 1996 and May 1997) added multiple FPU units, as well as almost every advanced modern CPU feature, including separate 2-way I/D caches (32K each) plus on-chip secondary controller (and high speed 8-way split transaction bus (up to 8 transactions can be issued before the first completes)), superscalar execution (load four, dispatch five instructions (may be out of order) to any of two integer, two floating point, and one load/store units), dynamic register renaming (integer and floating point rename registers (thirty two in the R10K, fourty eight in the R12K)), and an instruction cache where instructions are partially decoded when loaded into the cache, simplifying the processor decode (and register rename/issue) stage. This technique was first implemented in the AT&T CRISP/Hobbit CPU, described later. Branch prediction and target caches are also included.

The 2-way (int/float) superscalar R5000 (January, 1996) was added to fill the gap between R4600 and R10000, without any fancy features (out of order or branch prediction buffers). For embedded applications, MIPS and LSI Logic added a compact 16 bit instruction set which can be mixed with the 32 bit set (same as the ARM Thumb 16 bit extension), implemented in a CPU called TinyRISC (October 1996), as well as MIPS V and MDMX (MIPS Digital Multimedia Extensions, announced October 1996)). MIPS V adds parallel floating point (two 32 bit fields in 64 bit registers) operations (compared to similar HP MAX integer or Sun VIS and Intel MMX floating point unit extensions), MDMX adds integer 8 or 16 bit subwords in 64 bit FPU registers and a 24 and 48 bit subwords in a 192 bit accumulator for multimedia instructions (a MAC instruction on an 8-bit value can produce a 24-bit result, hence the large accumulator). Vector-scalar operations (ex: multiply all subwords in a register by subword 3 from another register) are also supported. These extensive instructions are partly derived from Cray vector instructions (Cray is owned by SGI, the parent company of MIPS), and are much more extensive than the earlier multimedia extensions of other CPUs. Future versions are expected to add Java virtual machine support.

Rumour has it that delays and performance limits, but more probably SGI's financial problems, meant that the R10000 and derivatives (R12K and R14K) were the end of the high performance line for the MIPS architecture. SGI scaled back high end development in favour of the promised IA-64 architecture announced by HP and Intel. MIPS was sold off by SGI, and the MIPS processor was retargeted to embedded designs where it's more successful. The R20K implemented the MDMX extensions, and increased the number of integer unit to six. SiByte introduced a less parallel, high clock rate 64-bit MIPS CPU (SB-1, mid 2000) exceeding what marketing people enthusiastically call the "1GHz barrier", which has never been an actual barrier of any sort.

Nintendo used a version of the MIPS CPU in the N64 (along with SGI-designed 3-D hardware), accounting for around 3/4 of MIPS embedded business in 1999 until switching to a custom IBM PowerPC, and a graphics processor from ArtX (founded by ex-SGI engineers) for its successor named GameCube (codenamed "Dolphin").

Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC, a conservative RISC (Oct 1986)

A design typical of many load-store processors, the PA-RISC (Precision Architecture, originally code-named Spectrum) was designed to replace older 16-bit stack-based processors in HP-3000 MPE minicomputers (initially code-named "Alpha", after a more complex version called "Omega" was cancelled), and Motorola 680x0 processors in the HP-9000 HP/UX Unix minicomputers and workstations. It has an unusually large instruction set for a RISC processor (including a conditional (predicated) skip instruction similar to those in the ARM processor), partly because initial design took place before RISC philosophy was popular, and partly because careful analysis showed that performance benefited from the instructions chosen - in fact, version 1.1 added new multiple operation instructions combined from frequent instruction sequences, and HP was among the first to add multimedia instructions (the MAX-1 and MAX-2 instructions, similar to Sun VIS or Intel MMX). Despite this, it's a simple design - the entire original CPU had only 115,000 transistors, less than twice the much older 68000.

Much of the RISC philosophy was independently invented at HP from lessons learned from FOCUS (pre 1984), HP's (and the world's) first fully 32 bit microprocessor. It was a huge (at the time) 450,000 transistor chip with a stack based instruction set, described as "essentially a gigantic microcode ROM with a simple 32 bit data path bolted to its side". Performance wasn't spectacular, but it was used in a pre-Unix workstation from HP.

It's almost the cannonical load-store design, similar except in details to most other mainstream load-store processors like the Fairchild/Intergraph Clipper (1986), and the Motorola 88K in particular. It has a 5 stage pipeline, which (unlike early MIPS (R2000) processors) had hardware interlocks from the beginning for instructions which take more than one cycle, as well as result forwarding (a result can be used by a previous instruction without waiting for it to be stored in a register first).

It is a load/story architecture, originally with a single instruction/data bus, later expanded to a Harvard architecture (separate instruction and data buses). It has thirty-two 32-bit integer registers (GR0 wired to constant 0, GR31 used as a link register for procedure calls), with seven 'shadow registers' which preserve the contents of a subset of the GR set during fast interrupts (also like ARM), and thirty-two 64-bit floating point registers (also as sixty-four 32-bit and sixteen 128-bit), in an FPU (which could execute a floating point instruction simultaneously, from the Apollo-designed Prism architecture (1988?) after Hewlett-Packard acquired the company). Later versions (the PA-RISC 7200 in 1994) added a second integer unit (still dispatching only two instructions at a time to any of the three units). Addressing originally was 48 bits, and expanded to 64 bits, using a segmented addressing scheme.

The PA-RISC 7200 also included a tightly integrated cache and MMU, a high speed 64-bit 'Runway' bus, and a fast but complex fully associative 2KB on-chip assist cache, between the simpler direct-mapped data cache and main memory, which reduces thrashing (repeatedly loading the same cache line) when two memory addresses are aliased (mapped to the same cache line). Instructions are predecoded into a separate instruction cache (like the AT&T CRISP/Hobbit).

The PA-RISC 8000 (April 1996), intended to compete with the R10000, UltraSparc, and others) expands the registers and architecture to 64 bits (eliminating the need for segments), and adds aggressive superscalar design - up to 5 instructions out of order, using fifty six rename registers, to ten units (five pairs of: ALU, shift/merge, FPU mult/add, divide/sqrt, load/store). The CPU is split in two, with load/store (high latency) instructions dispatched from a separate queue from operations (except for branch or read/modify/write instructions, which are copied to both queues). It also has a deep pipeline and speculative execution of branches (many of the same features as the R10000, in a very elegant implementation).

The PA-RISC 8500 (mid 1998) breaks with HP tradition (in a big way) and adds on-chip cache - 1.5Mb L1 cache.

Although typically sporting fewer of the advanced (and promised) features of competing CPUs designs, a simple elegant design and effective instruction set has kept PA-RISC performance among the best in its class (of those actually available at the same time) since its introduction.

HP pioneered the addition of multimedia instructions with the MAX-1 (Multimedia Acceleration eXtension) extensions in the PA-7100LC (pre-1994) and 64-bit (version 2.0) MAX-2 extensions in the PA-8000, which allowed vector operations on two or four 16-bit subwords in 32-bit or 64-bit integer registers (this only required circuitry to slice the integer ALU (similar to bit-slice processors, such as the AMD 2901), adding only 0.1 percent to the PA-8000 CPU area - using the FPU registers like Sun's VIS and Intels MMX do would have required duplicating ALU functions. 8 and 32-bit support, multiplication, and complex instructions were also left out in favour of powerful 'mix' and 'permute' packing/unpacking operations).

In the future Hewlett-Packard plans to pursue a "post-VLIW" (Very Long Instruction Word) design in conjunction with Intel code named "Merced" or IA-64, possibly expanding on the idea of MAX or MMX operations. Some of the newer CPUs which execute Intel 80x86 instructions (The AMD 'K5' and NexGen Nx586, for example) treat 80x86 instructions as VLIW instructions, decoding them into RISC-like instructions and executing several concurrently. However, it would more likely follow the VLIW design of the TI 320C6x DSP.

Motorola 88000, Late but elegant (mid 1988)

The Motorola 88000 (originally named the 78000) is a 32 bit processor, one of the first load-store CPUs based on a Harvard architecture (the same as the Fairchild/Intergraph Clipper C100 (1986) beat it by 2 years). Each bus has a separate cache, so simultaneous data and instruction access doesn't conflict. Except for this, it is similar to the Hewlett Packard Precision Architecture (HP/PA) in design (including many control/status registers only visible in supervisor mode), though the 88000 is more modular, has a small and elegant instruction set, no special status register (compare stores 16 condition code bits (equal, not equal, less-or-equal, any byte equal, etc.) in any general register, and branch checks whether one bit is set or clear), and lacks segmented addressing (limiting addressing to 32 bits, vs. 64 bits). The 88200 MMU unit also provides dual caches (including multiprocessor support) and MMU functions for the 88100 CPU (like the Clipper). The 88110 includes caches and MMU on-chip.

The 88000 has thirty-two 32 bit user registers, with up to 8 distinct internal function units - an ALU and a floating point unit (sharing the single register set) in the 88100 version, multiple ALU and FPU units (with thirty-two 80-bit FPU registers) and two-issue instuctions were added to the 88110 to produce one of the first superscalar designs (following the National Semiconductor Swordfish). Other units could be designed and added to produce custom designs for customers, and the 88110 added a graphics/bit unit which pack or unpack 4, 8 or 16-bit integers (pixels) within 32-bit words, and multiply packed bytes by an 8-bit value. But it was introduced late and never became as popular in major systems as the MIPS or HP processors. Development (and performance) has lagged as Motorola favoured the PowerPC CPU, coproduced with IBM.

Like the most modern processors, the 88000 is pipelined (with interlocks), and has result forwarding (in the 88110 one ALU can feed a result directly into another for the next cycle). Loads and saves in the 88110 are buffered so the processor doesn't have to wait, except when loading from a memory location still waiting for a save to complete. The 88110 also has a history buffer for speculatively executing branches and to make interrupts 'precise' (they're imprecise in the 88100). The history buffer is used to 'undo' the results of speculative execution or to restore the processor to 'state' when the interrupt occurred - a 1 cycle penalty, as opposed to 'register renaming' which buffers results in another register and either discards or saves it as needed, without penalty.

Fairchild/Intergraph Clipper, An also-ran (1986)

The Clipper C100 was developed by Fairchild, later sold to workstation maker Intergraph, which took over chip development (produced the C300 in 1988) until it decided it couldn't compete in processor technology, and switched to Intel 80x86-based processors (Fairchild itself was bought by National Semiconductor).

The C100 was a three-chip set like the Motorola 88000 (but predating it by two years), with a Harvard architecture CPU and separate MMU/cache chips for instruction and data. It differed from the 88K and HP PA-RISC in having sixteen 32-bit user registers and eight 64-bit FPU registers, rather than the more common thirty-two, and 16 and 32 bit instruction lengths.

The only other distinguishing features of the Clipper are a bank of sixteen supervisor registers which completely replace the user registers, (the ARM replaces half the user registers on an FIRQ interrupt) and the addition of some microcode instructions like in the Intel i960.

Acorn ARM, RISC for the masses (1986)

ARM (Advanced RISC Machine, originally Acorn RISC Machine) is often praised as one of the most elegant modern processors in existence. It was meant to be "MIPs for the masses", and designed as part of a family of chips (ARM - CPU, MEMC - MMU and DRAM/ROM controller, VIDC - video and DAC, IOC - I/O, timing, interrupts, etc), for the Archimedes home computer (multitasking OS, windows, etc). It's made by VLSI Technologies Inc, and based partly on the Berkeley experimental load-store design. It is simple, with a short 3-stage pipeline, and it can operate in big- or little-endian mode.

The original ARM (ARM1, 2 and 3) was a 32 bit CPU, but used 26 bit addressing. The newer ARM6xx spec is completely 32 bits. It has user, supervisor, and various interrupt modes (including 26 bit modes for ARM2 compatibility). The ARM architecture has sixteen registers (including user visible PC as R15) with a multiple load/save instruction, though many registers are shadowed in interrupt modes (2 in supervisor and IRQ, 7 in FIRQ) so need not be saved, for fast response. The instruction set is reminiscent of the 6502, used in Acorns earlier computers.

A feature introduced in microprocessors by the ARM is that every instruction is predicated, using a 4 bit condition code (including 'never execute', not officially recommended), an idea later used in some HP PA-RISC instructions and the TI 320C6x DSP. Another bit indicates whether the instruction should set condition codes, so intervening instructions don't change them. This easily eliminates many branches and can speed execution. Another unique and useful feature is a barrel shifter which operates on the second operand of most ALU operations, allowing shifts to be combined with most operations (and index registers for addressing), effectively combining two or more instructions into one (similar to the earlier design of the funky Signetics 8x300).

These features make ARM code both dense (unlike most load-store processors) and efficient, despite the relatively low clock rate and short pipeline - it is roughly equivalent to a much more complex 80486 in speed. And like the Motorola Coldfire, ARM has developed a low cost 16-bit version called Thumb, which recodes a subset of ARM CPU instructions into 16 bits (decoded to native 32-bit ARM instructions without penalty - similar to the CISC decoders in the newest 80x86 compatible and 68060 processors, except they decode native instructions into a newer one, while Thumb does the reverse). Thumb programs can be 30-40% smaller than already dense ARM programs. Native ARM code can be mixed with Thumb code when the full instruction set is needed.

The ARM series consists of the ARM6 CPU core (35,000 transistors, which can be used as the basis for a custom CPU) the ARM60 base CPU, and the ARM600 which also includes 4K 64-way set-associative cache, MMU, write buffer, and coprocessor interface (for FPU). A newer version, the ARM7 series (Dec 1994), increases performance by optimising the multiplier, and adding DSP-like extensions including 32 bit and 64 bit multiply and multiply/accumulate instructions (operand data paths lead from registers through the multiplier, then the shifter (one operand), and then to the integer ALU for up to three independent operations). It also doubles cache size to 8K, includes embedded In Circuit Emulator (ICE) support, and raises the clock rate significantly.

A full DSP coprocessor (codenamed Piccolo, expected second half 1997) was to add an independent set of sixteen 32-bit registers (also accessable as thirty two 16 bit registers), four which can be used as 48 bit registers, and a complete DSP instruction set (including four level zero-overhead loop operations), using a load-store model similar to the ARM itself. The coprocessor had its own program counter, interacting with the CPU which performed data load/store through input/output buffers connected to the coprocessor bus (similar but more intelligent than the address unit in a typical DSP (such as the Motorola 56K) supporting the data unit). The coprocessor shared the main ARM bus, but used a separate instruction buffer to reduce conflict. Two 16 bit values packed in 32 bit registers could be computed in parallel, similar to the HP PA-RISC MAX-1 multimedia instructions. Unfortunately, this interesting concept didn't produce enough commercial interest to complete development and was difficult to produce a compiler for (essentially, it was two CPU executing two programs) - instead, DSP support instructions (more flexible MAC, saturation arithmetic) were later added to the ARM9E CPU.

The ARM CPU was chosen for the Apple Newton handheld system because of its speed, combined with the low power consumption, low cost and customizable design (the ARM610 version used by Apple includes a custom MMU supporting object oriented protection and access to memory for the Newton's NewtOS). DEC has also licensed the architecture, and has developed the SA-110 (StrongARM) (February 1996), running a 5-stage pipeline at 100 to 233MHz (using only 1 watt of power), with 5-port register file, faster multiplier, single cycle shift-add, and Harvard architecture (16K each 32-way I/D caches). To fill the gap between ARM7 and DEC StrongARM, ARM also developed the ARM8/800 which includes many StrongARM features, and the ARM9 with Harvard busses, write buffers, and flexible memory protection mapping.

A vector floating-point unit is being added to the ARM10.

An experimental asynchronous version of the ARM6 (operates without an external or internal clock signal) called AMULET has been produced by Steve Furber's research group at Manchester university. The first version (AMULET1, early 1993) is about 70% the speed of a 20MHz ARM6 on average (using the same fabrication process), but simple operations (multiplication is a big win at up to 3 times the speed) are faster (since they don't need to wait for a clock signal to complete). AMULET2e (October 1996, 93K transistor AMULET2 core plus four 1K fully associative cache blocks) is 30% faster (40 MIPS, 1/2 the performance of a 75MHz ARM810 using same fabrication), uses less power, and includes features such as branch prediction. AMULET3 is expected to be a commercial product in 1999.

TMS320C30, a popular DSP architecture (1988)

The 320C30 is a 32 bit floating point DSP, based on the earlier 320C20/10 16 bit fixed point DSPs (1982). It has eight 40 bit extended precision registers R0 to R7 (32 bits plus 8 guard bits for floating, 32 bits for fixed), eight 32 bit auxiliary registers AR0 to AR7 (used for pointers) with two separate arithmetic units for address calculation, and twelve 32 bit control registers (including status, an index register, stack, interrupt mask, and repeat block loop registers).

It includes on chip memory in the form of one 4K ROM block, and two 1K RAM blocks - each bus has its own bus, for a total of three (compared to one instruction and one data bus in a Harvard architecture), which essentially function as programer controlled caches. Two arguments to the ALU can be from memory or registers, and the result is written to a register, through a 4 stage pipeline.

The ALU, address controller and control logic are separate - much clearer in the AT&T DSP32, ADSP 2100 and Motorola 56000 designs, and is even reflected in the MIPS R8000 processor FPU and IBM POWER architecture with its Branch Unit loop counter. The idea is to allow the separate parts to operate as independently as possible (for example, a memory access, pointer increment, and ALU operation), for the highest throughput, so instructions accessing loop and condition registers don't take the same path as data processing instructions.

Motorola DSP96002, an elegant DSP architecture

The 96002 is based on (and remaines software compatible with) the earlier 56000 24 bit fixed point DSP (most fixed points DSPs are 16 bit, but 24 bits make it ideal for audio processing, without the high cost of floating point 32 bit DSPs). A 16 bit version (the 5616) was introduced later.

Like the TMS320C30, the 96002 has a separate program memory (RAM in this case, with a bootstrap ROM used to load the initial external program) and two blocks of data RAM, each with a separate data and address busses. The data blocks can also be switched to ROM blocks (such as sine and cosine tables). There's also a data bus for access to external memory. Separate units work independently, with their own registers (generally organised as three 32 bit parts of a single 96 bit register in the 96002 (where the '96' comes from).

The program control unit has a register containing 32 bit PC, status, and operating mode registers, plus 32 bit loop address and 32 bit loop counter registers (branches are 2 cycles, conditional branches are 3 cycles - with conditional execution support), and a fifteen element 64 bit stack (with separate 6 bit stack pointer).

The address generation unit has seven 96 bit registers, divided into three 32 bit (24 in the 56000/1) registers - R0-R7 address, N0-N7 offset, and M0-M7 modify (containing increment values) registers.

The Data Unit includes ten 96-bit floating point/integer registers, grouped as two 96 bit accumulators (A and B = three 32 bit registers each: A2, A1, A0 and B2, B1, B0) and two 64 bit input registers (X and Y = two 32 bit registers each: X1, X0 and Y1, Y0). Input registers are general purpose, but allow new operands to be loaded for the next instruction while the current contents are being used (accumulators are 8+24+24 = 56 bit in the 56000/1, where the '56' comes from). The DSP96000 was one of the first to perform fully IEEE floating point compliant operations.

The processor is not pipelined, but designed for single cycle independent execution within each unit (actually this could be considered a three stage pipeline). With multiple units and the large number of registers, it can perform a floating point multiply, add and subtract while loading two registers, performing a DMA transfer, and four address calculations within a two clock tick processor cycle, at peak speeds.

It's very similar to the Analog Devices ADSP2100 series - the latter has two address units, but replaces the separate data unit with three execution units (ALU, a multiplier, and a barrel shifter).

The DSP56K and 680xx CPUs have been combined in one package (similar idea as the TMS320C8x) in the Motorola 68456.

The DSP56K was part of the ill-fated NeXT system, as well as the lesser known Atari Falcon (still made in low volumes for music buffs).

Hitachi SuperH series, Embedded, small, economical (1992)

Although the TRON project produced processors competitive in performance (Fujitsu's(?) Gmicro/500 memory-data CPU (1993) was faster and used less power than a Pentium), the idea of a single standard processor never caught on, and newer concepts (such as RISC features) overtook the TRON design. Hitachi itself has supplied a wide variety of microprocessors, from Motorola and Zilog compatible designs to IBM System/360/370/390 compatible mainframes, but has also designed several of its own series of processors.

The Hitachi SH series was meant to replace the 8-bit and 16-bit H8 microcontrollers, a series of PDP-11-like (or National Semiconductor 32032/32016-like) memory-data CPUs with sixteen 16-bit registers (eight in the H8/300), usable as sixteen 8-bit or combined as eight 32-bit registers (for addressing, except H8/300), with many memory-oriented addressing modes. The SH is also designed for the embedded marked, and is similar to the ARM architecture in many ways. It's a 32 bit processor, but with a 16 bit instruction format (different than Thumb, which is a 16 bit encoding of a subset of ARM 32 bit instructions, or the NEC V800 load-store series, which mixes 16 and 32 bit instruction formats), and has sixteen general purpose registers and a load/store architecture (again, like ARM). This results in a very high code density, program sizes similar to the 680x0 and 80x86 CPUs, and about half that of the PowerPC. Because of the small instruction size, there is no load immediate instruction, but a PC-relative addressing mode is supported to load 32 bit values (unlike ARM or PDP-11, the PC is not otherwise visible). The SH also has a Multiply ACcumulate (MAC) instruction, and MACH/L (high/low word) result registers - 42 bit results (32 low, 10 high) in the SH1, 64 bit results (both 32 bit) in the SH2 and later. The SH3 includes an MMU and 2K to 8K of unified cache.

The SH4 (mid-1998) is a superscalar version with extensions for 3-D graphics support. It can issue two instructions at a time to any of four units: integer, floating point, load/store, branch (except for certain non-superscalar instructions, such as modifying control registers). Certain instructions, such as register-register move, can be executed by either the integer or load/store unit, two can be issued at the same time. Each unit has a separate pipeline, five stages for integer and load/store, five or six for floating point, and three for branch.

Hitachi designers chose to add 3-D support to the SH4 instead of parallel integer subword operations like HP MAX, SPARC VIS, or Intel MMX extensions, which mainly enhance rendering performance, because they felt rendering can be handled more efficiently by a graphics coprocessor.

3-D graphics support is added by supporting the vector and matrix operations used for manipulating 3-D points (see Appendix D. This involved adding an extra set of floating point registers, for a total of two sets of sixteen - one set as a 4X4 matrix, the other a set of four 4-element vectors. A mode bit selects which to use as the forground (register/vector) and background (matrix) banks. Register pair operations can load/store/move two registers (64 bits) at once. An inner product operation computes the inner product multiplication of two vectors (four simultaneous multiplies and one 4-input add), while a transformation instruction computes a matrix-vector product (issued as four consecutive inner product instructions, but using four internal work registers so intermediate results don't need to use data registers).

The SH4 allows operations to complete out of order under compiler control. For example, while a transformation is being executed (4 cycles) another can be stored (2 cycles using double-store instructions), then a third loaded (2 cycles) in preparation for the next transformation, allowing execution to be sustained at 1.4 gigaflops for a 200MHz CPU.

The SH5 is expected to be a 64-bit version. Other enhancements also planned include support for MPEG operations, which are supported in the SPARC VIS instructions. The SH5 adds a set of eight branch registers (like the Intel/HP IA-64), and a status bit which enables pre-loading of the target instructions when an address is placed in a branch register.

The SH is used in many of Hitachi's own products, as well as being a pioneer of wide popularity for a Japanese CPU outside of Japan. It's most prominently featured in the Sega Saturn video game system (which uses two SH2 CPUs) and Dreamcast (SH4) and many Windows CE handheld/pocket computers (SH3 chip set).

Motorola MCore, RISC brother to ColdFire (Early 1998)

To fill a gap in Motorola's product line, in the low cost/power consumption field which the PowerPC's complexity makes it impractical, the company designed a load/store CPU and core which contains features similar to the ARM, PowerPC, and Hitachi SH, beignning with the M200 (1997).

Based on a four stage pipeline, The MCore contains sixteen 32-bit data registers, plus an alternate set for fast interupts (like the ARM, which only has seven in the second set), and a separate carry bit (like the TMS 1000). It also has an ARM-like (and 8x300-like before it) execution unit with a shifter for one operand, a shifter/multiply/divide unit, and an integer ALU in a series. It defines a 16-bit instruction set like the Hitachi SH and ARM Thumb, and separates the branch/program control unit from the execution unit, as the PowerPC does. The PC unit contains a branch adder which allows branches to be computed in parallel with the branch instruction decode and execute, so branches only take two cycles (skipped branches take one). The M300 (late 1998) added floating point support (sharing the integer registers) and dual instruction prefetch.

The MCore is meant for embedded applications where custom hardware may be needed, so like the ARM is has coprocessor support in the form of the Hardware Accellerator Interface (HAI) unit which can contain custom circuitry, and the HAI bus for external components.

TI MSP430 series, PDP-11 rediscovered (late 1998?)

Texas Instruments has been involved with microcontrollers almost as long as Intel, having introduced the TMS1000 microcontroller shortly after the Intel 4004/4040. TI concentrated mostly on embedded digital signal processors (DSPs) such as the TMS320Cx0 series, involved in microprocessors mainly as the manufacturer of 32-bit and 64-bit Sun SPARC designs. The MSP430 series Mixed Signal Microcontrollers are 16-bit CPUs for low cost/power designs.

Called "RISC like" (and consequently obliterating all remaining meaning from that term), the MSP430 is essentially a simplified version of the PDP-11 architecture. It has sixteen 16-bit registers, with R0 used as the program counter (PC), and R1 as the stack pointer (SP) (the PDP-11 had eight, with PC and SP in the two highest registers instead of two lowest). R2 is used for the status register (a separate register in the PDP-11) Addressing modes are a small subset of the PDP-11, lacking auto-decrement and pre-increment modes, but including register indirect, making this a memory-data processor (little-endian). Constants are loaded using post-increment PC relative addresses like the PDP-11 (ie. "@R0+"), but commonly used constants can be generated by reading from R2 or R3 (indirect addressing modes can generate 0, 1, 2, -1, 4, or 8 - different values for each register).

The MSP430 has fewer instructions than the PDP-11 (51 total, 27 core). Specifically multiplication is implemented as a memory-mapped peripheral - two operands (8 or 16 bits) are written to the input ports, and the multiplication result can be read from the output (this is a form of Transport Triggered Architecture, or TTA). As a low cost microcontroller, multiple on-chip peripherals (in addition to the multiplier) are standard in many available versions.

Future versions are expected to be available with two 4-bit segment registers (Code Segment Pointer for instructions, Data Page Pointer for data) to allow 20-bit memory addressing. Long branch and call instructions will be added as well.

Born Beyond Scalar

Intel 960, Intel quietly gets it right (1987 or 1988?)

Largely obscured by the marketing hype surrounding the Intel 80860, the 80960 was actually an overall better processor, and replaced the AMD 29K series as "the world's most popular embedded RISC" until 1996. The 960 was aimed for the high end embedded market (it included multiprocessor and debugging support, and strong interrupt/fault handling, but lacked MMU support), while the 860 was intended to be a general purpose processor (the name 80860 echoing the popular 8086).

Although the first implementation was not superscalar, the 960 was designed to allow dispatching of instructions to multiple (undefined, but generally including at least one integer) execution units, which could include internal registers (such as the four 80 bit registers in the floating point unit (32, 64, and 80 bit IEEE operations)) - the 960 CA version (1989) was superscalar. There are sixteen 32 bit global registers which can be shared by all excution units and sixteen register "caches" - similar to the SPARC register windows, but not overlapping (originally four banks). It's a load/store Harvard architecture (32-bit flat addressing), but has some complex microcoded instructions (such as CALL/RET). There are also thirty-two 32 bit special function registers.

It's a very clean embedded architecture, not designed for high level applications, but very effective and scalable - something that can't be said for all Intel's processor designs.

Intel 860, "Cray on a Chip" (late 1988?)

The Intel 80860 was an impressive chip, able at top speed to perform close to 66 MFLOPS at 33 MHz in real applications, compared to a more typical 5 or 10 MFLOPS for other CPUs of the time. Much of this was marketing hype, and it never become popular, lagging behind most newer CPUs and Digital Signal Processors in performance.

The 860 has several modes, from regular scaler mode to a superscalar mode that executes two instructions per cycle and a user visible pipeline mode (instructions using the result register of a multi-cycle op would take the current value instead of stalling and waiting for the result). It can use the 8K data cache in a limited way as a small vector register (like those in supercomputers). The unusual cache uses virtual addresses, instead of physical, so the cache has to be flushed any time the page tables changes, even if the data is unchanged. Instruction and data busses are separate, with 4 G of memory, using segments. It also includes a Memory Management Unit for virtual storage.

The 860 has thirty two 32 bit registers and thirty two 32 bit (or sixteen 64 bit) floating point registers. It was one of the first microprocessors to contains not only an FPU as well as an integer ALU, but also a 3-D graphics unit (attached to the FPU) that supports lines drawing, Gouraud shading, Z-buffering for hidden line removal, and other operations in conjunction with the FPU. It was also the first able to do an integer operation, and a (unique at the time) multiply and add floating point instruction, for the equivalent of three instructions, at the same time (a FPU instruction bit indicated the current and next integer/floating-point pairs can execute in parallel, similar to the Apollo DN10000 CPU/FPU (also 1988) which had an integer bit which affected only the current integer/floating-point pair).

However actually getting the chip at top speed usually required using assembly language - using standard compilers gave it a speed closer to other processors. Because of this, it was used as a coprocessor, either for graphics, or floating point acceleration, like add in parallel units for workstations. Another problem with using the Intel 860 as a general purpose CPU is the difficulty handling interrupts. It is extensively pipelined, having as many as four pipes operating at once, and when an interrupt occurs, the pipes can spill and lose data unless complex code is used to clean up. Delays range from 62 cycles (best case) to 50 microseconds (almost 2000 cycles).

IBM RS/6000 POWER chips (1990)

When IBM decided to become a real part of the workstation market (after its unsuccessful PC/RT based on the ROMP processor), it decided to produce a new innovative CPU, based partly on the 801 project that pioneered RISC theory. RISC initially stood for Reduced Instruction Set Computer, but IBM defined it as Reduced Instruction Set Cycles, and implemented a relatively complex processor (POWER - Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC) with more high level instructions than even many memory-data processors.

The first POWER CPU (POWER1) was implemented using three ICs for the processor - branch, integer and floating point units - plus two or four cache chips, and defined the basic architecture. The branch unit was unusually complex, and contained the program counter, as well as a condition code (CC) register and a loop register. The CC register has eight field sets, the first two reserved for fixed and floating point operations, the seventh (later) for vector operations, and the rest which could be set separately, and combined or checked several instructions later. The loop register is a counter for 'decrement and branch on zero' loops with no branch penalty (similar to certain DSPs like the TMS320C30). POWER1 was also one of the first superscalar CPUs of its generation, the branch unit could dispatch multiple instructions to the two functional unit input queues while itself executing a program control operation (up to four operations at once, even out of order). Speculative branches were supported using a prediction bit in the branch instructions (results discarded before being saved if not taken, the alternate instruction was buffered and discarded if the branch was taken), and the branch unit manages subroutine calls without branch penalties, as well as hardware interrupts. Results are forwarded to instructions in the pipeline which use them before they are written to the registers.

Thirty two 32-bit registers were defined for the POWER1 integer unit, which also included certain string operations, as well as all load/store operations. In addition, it included a special MQ register for extended precision multiply/divides, similar to the MIPS HI/LO registers. Like many other load-store CPUs, register R0 is treated as constant 0 for some instructions, but it is used like a normal register most of the time. The POWER/PowerPC architecture supports memory/data-style 'update' operations, incrementing/decrementing the used address register before a load/store.

The floating point unit had thirty two 64 bit registers, performing only double precision operations, and including a DSP-like multiply-accumulate operation. Floating point exceptions are imprecise - in fact, don't produce exceptions at all, but set a condition bit on an error. The bit must be tested by software to determine if an error occurred.

IBM, Motorola, and Apple formed a coalition (around 1992) to produce a microprocessor version of the POWER design as a successor to both the Motorola 68000 and Intel 80x86, resulting in the PowerPC. The architectural differences began with the elimination of the MQ register, since it would add complexity to possible superscalar versions. This was replaced with separate instructions to calculate the upper and lower parts of a multiplication, which would (with two integer units) execute simultaneously anyway. Division was handled similarly using general registers. In addition, the more complex string operations and three-source instructions were removed, and finally, 32 bit floating point support was added. Dropped POWER instructions were to be emulated in the PowerPC CPUs.

The first PowerPC 601 (1993) was a bridge (considered first generation or G1), and included both POWER and PowerPC features, based strongly on the POWER1, except it had a single 32K cache rather than separate I/D caches. It defined the Motorola 88000 as the standard PowerPC bus. The 603 (1993?, first second generation G2) separated the main functional units further, removing load/store operations from the integer unit (four functional units total - integer, floating point, load/store (using integer registers), branch), and splitting the branch unit into a fetch/branch unit, a dispatch unit, and a completion/exception unit. The 603 also added a rename buffer in the dispatch unit for speculative execution using renamed integer and floating point registers, which are ordered properly by the completion/exception unit, or discarded for mispredicted branches and exceptions. Separate 8K and 16K I/D cache versions were available.

The PowerPC 604 (mid 1995) added dynamic branch prediction using a branch history table, and added two simplified integer units - three integer, two for single-cycle operations, one for multicycle operations such as multiply/divide, plus floating point, load/store and branch, total of six. Four instructions could be dispatched at once The CC register could also be renamed. The PowerPC 620 expanded the 604 design to 64 bits (but with a 'backside' L2 cache bus), and added new 64 bit instructions, but was delivered much later and slower than promised, and was further delayed when it was with drawn for a redesign. The 32 bit PowerPC 750 (G3, early 1998) refined the design and performance, adding a P620-style backside cache bus, but made no other significant changes (notably though, they used a 603-based 32-bit FPU, rather than the 64-bit 604 FPU).

Workstation versions continued with the POWER2 (1993), a high bandwidth design with two floating point load/store units, 256K of data cache, and added 128-bit floating point support and a square root instruction. Initially a multichip design, it was later combined into one chip (P2SC), and then into an eight CPU "SuperChip". It could issue up to six instructions and four simultaneous loads or stores. It was superceded by the POWER3 (Early 1998), with eight functional units (two FPU, three integer (two single cycle, one multicycle), two load/store, and branch unit), but capable of operating at much higher clock speeds. In addition, a 64 bit version, the PowerPC A35 (Apache), was designed for the AS/400 E series which added decimal arithmatic and string instructions, also used in the RS/6000 S70 workstation (called the PowerPC RS64-I).

The A50/RS64-II (Northstar (1998)/Pulsar (1999, faster clock version)) added support for parallel execution, including the idea of vertical multithreading (implemented earlier by the CDC-6600 peripheral processors, and more recently by Tera in their MTA supercomputers in 1998?, which took the idea to extremes, supporting 128 threads per CPU and giving up cache entirely). The CPU state registers (integer and floating point, program counter, condition codes, etc.) are duplicated, allowing execution to be switched to a second thread in three cycles when a load misses the primary cache and causes a delay - the second thread can continue while the load for the first thread completes. The CPU is also designed to minimize branch delays by using a short, simple pipeline (five stages, in-order four-way issue to five units - simple integer, complex (multiply/divide) integer, load/store, branch, and floating point unit), and uses branch pre-fetching (also in PowerPC 750 and newer, identifies branch using LR or CTR registers when fetched and loads target instruction into the processor cache, in addition to branch prediction and target caching).

In addition, IBM and Motorola have designed simplified embedded versions, such as the IBM 40x series, and Motorola's 8xx versions, though complexity limits how small the designs can be - for the lower end, Motorola designed the ARM-like MCore low cost/power RISC CPU, while IBM simply licensed the ARM itself.

In direct response to Intel's MMX instructions, AltiVec extensions were introduced with fourth generation (G4, September 1999) PowerPC CPUs from Motorola (IBM initially declined to support the extensions, until agreeing to become a second source of AltiVec CPUs for Apple Macintoshes). Unlike multimedia extensions which use integer (HP PA-RISC MAX) or floating point registers (Sun VIS, Intel MMX), AltiVec adds an entire new set of 128-bit registers (enough for a vector of four 32-bit floating point numbers) and a separate vector execution unit and instruction set (four operand - three source, one result), supported by the complex PowerPC branch unit. That means that operating system software needs to be modified to preserve additional CPU state information (like the MIPS MDMX which adds a 192-bit accumulator to hold intermediate results, but uses 64-bit floating point registers for data), but it allows multimedia instructions to be executed in parallel with both integer and floating point operations, and to reduce the number of registers to save, an additional register (VRSAVE) is added to track which vector registers are being used - unused registers don't need to be stored. In addition to subword vector operations, AltiVec also includes permutation operations along the same lines as PA-RISC MAX instructions, and subword floating point operations like MIPS MDMX which can also perform vector multiplication allowing 3-D graphics support (see Appendix D) like the Hitachi SH4.

AltiVec and the embedded versions was apparently part of the reason Nintendo decided to switch from MIPS processors to a custom designed IBM variant of the PowerPC as the CPU for its next generation game console, code named "Dolphin".

It's interesting to note that the AltiVec data formats are based primarily on Java standards (based on IEEE), then on IEEE, and lastly on ANSI C9X floating point standards. A "Java mode" provides strict adherence to these standards, a "Non-Java mode" relaxes adherence to allow faster operations (if implemented).

A very high clock rate (500MHz) BiCMOS version called the 704 (based on a simplified 604) was being developed in 1996 by Exponential Technologies, expanding on the type of technology which Intel found necessary to keep its Pentium and Pentium Pro CPUs competitive, but advances in CMOS and a slower initial product (410MHz) sharply reduced the clock speed advantages, cancelling the project (faster, lower power, fully CMOS Pentium and Pentium Pro CPUs have replaced earlier BiCMOS versions). IBM went so far as to produce a 1GHz integer-only demonstration version of a CMOS PowerPC, and used the PowerPC as the first product to replace aluminum conductors with lower resistance copper, boosting clock speeds by about 33%.

Overall, the POWER/PowerPC architecture is a very powerful, almost mainframe-like architecture which could easily have fit into the "Wierd and Innovative" section, violating the traditional RISC philosophy of simplicity and fewer instructions (with over a hundred, including many duplicate which implicitly set CC bits and other which don't), versus only about 34 for the ARM and 52 for the Motorola 88000 (including FPU instructions)). The complexity is very effective, but has somewhat limited the clock speed of the designs (but less so than the even more complex Intel Pentium and Pentium II designs). It's an interesting tradeoff, considering that a highly parallel 71.5 MHz POWER2 managed to be faster than a 200MHz DEC Alpha 21064 of the same generation.

DEC Alpha, Designed for the future (1992)

The DEC Alpha architecture is designed, according to DEC, for a operational life of 25 years. Its main innovation is PALcalls (or writable instruction set extension), but it is an elegant blend of features, selected to ensure no obvious limits to future performance - no special registers, etc. The first Alpha chip is the 21064.

Alpha is a 64 bit architecture (32 bit instructions) that doesn't support 8- or 16-bit operations, but allows conversions, so no functionality is lost (Most processors of this generation are similar, but have instructions with implicit conversions). Alpha 32-bit operations differ from 64 bit only in overflow detection. Alpha does not provide a divide instruction due to difficulty in pipelining it. It's very much like the MIPS R2000, including use of general registers to hold condition codes. However, Alpha has an interlocked pipeline, so no special multiply/divide registers are needed, and Alpha is meant to avoid the significant growth in complexity which the R2000 family experienced as it evolved into the R8000 and R10000.

One of Alpha's roles is to replace DEC's two prior architectures - the MIPS-based workstations and VAX minicomputers (Alpha evolved from a VAX replacment project codenamed PRISM, not to be confused with the Apollo Prism acquired by Hewlett Packard). To do this, the chip provides both IEEE and VAX 32 and 64 bit floating point operations, and features Privileged Architecture Library (PAL) calls, a set of programmable (non-interruptable) macros written in the Alpha instruction set, similar to the programmable microcode of the Western Digital MCP-1600 or the AMD Am2910 CPUs, to simplify conversion from other instruction sets using a binary translator, as well as providing flexible support for a variety of operating systems.

Alpha was also designed for the future for a 1000-fold eventual increase in performance (10 X by clock rate, 10 X by superscalar execution, and 10 X by multiprocessing) Because of this, superscalar instructions may be reordered, and trap conditions are imprecise (like in the 88100). Special instructions (memory and trap barriers) are available to syncronise both occurrences when needed (different from the POWER use of a trap condition bit which is explicitly by software, but similar in effect. SPARC also has a specification for similar barrier instructions). And there are no branch delay slots like in the R2000, since they produce scheduling problems in superscalar execution, and compatibility problems with extended pipelines. Instead speculative execution (branch instructions include hint bits) and a branch cache are used.

The 21064 was introduced with one integer, one floating point, and one load/store unit. The 21164 (Early 1995) began expanding instruction parallelism by adding one integer/load/store unit with byte vector (multimedia-type) instructions (replacing the load/store unit) and one floating point unit, and increased clock speed from 200 MHz to 300 MHz (still roughly twice that of competing CPUs), and introduced the idea of a level 2 cache on chip (8K each inst/data level 1, 96K combined level 2). The 21264 (mid 1998) expanded this to four integer units (two add/logic/shift/branch (one also with multiply, one with multimedia) and two add/logic/load/store), two different floating point units (one for add/div/square root and one for multiply), with the ability to load four, dispatch six, and retire eight instructions per cycle (and for the first time including 40 integer and 40 floating point rename registers and out of order execution), at up to 500MHz. The 21364 (expected 2000 or 2001) began the multiprocessor strategy by adding five high speed interconnects (four CPU (10 GB/s), almost identical in concept to the Transputer CPUs, and one I/O (3 GB/s)) to an enhanced 21264 core.

Multimedia extensions introduced with the 21264 are simple, but include VIS-type motion estimation (MPEG).

DEC's Alpha is in many ways the antithesis of IBM's POWER design, which gains performance from complexity, and the expense of a large transistor count, while the Alpha concentrates on the original RISC idea of simplicity and a higher clock rate - though that also has its drawback, in terms of very high power consumption.

In 1998, DEC was purchased by Compaq. The transition was blamed by some with the 21264 being unable to exceed 833MHz clock speeds, while CPUs from Intel, AMD, and SiByte (MIPS) gained attention by exceeding 1GHz (Alpha performance remained near the top of the competition, but it had also previously also had the highest clock speeds). Apparently a design flaw was to blame, but rather than redesigning the existing chip, the resources were spent developing the 21364 instead.

Beyond RISC - Search for a New Paradigm

Philips Trimedia - A Media processor (1996)

The Philips TriMedia is one of the most successful of a wave of "media processors" introduced at roughly the same time, intended to perform video and audio processing tasks - similar to digital signal processors, but utilizing significantly more advanced marketing terminology. These included products such as the Mpact and Mpact 2 from Chromatic Research (1996, abandoned July 1998, the company was later bought by ATI Technologies), as well as those developed by companies largely for their own use, such as Matsushita's MCP (1997/8?). The "media processor" generation of DSPs are generally distinguished by using fixed or variable length VLIW designs, and often parallel subword operations (also known as SIMD). Often support devices ranging from as digital/analog converters to video processors were included on-chip.

One exception to the marketing trend was the TI TMS320C6x, which uses the same type of VLIW design, but retains the "DSP" terminology of its TMS320Cx0 relatives.

Like many, the Trimedia can include various peripherals and on-chip memory, such as video and audio in and out, a decompressor, and an image coprocessor, which performs colour conversion and display masking independently of the CPU (called the DSPCPU in TriMedia terms). The CPU has 128 general purpose registers (R0 to R127, integer or floating-point values - 32-bit on TM1000, 64-bit on later versions). R0 is wired to contain 0, R1 contains 1, the PC register is separate. Like the ARM and TMS320C62x, all instructions are predicated ("guarding" in TriMedia terms, using register 1/0 (true/false) values - R1 is always 1 and can be used as the default predicate). Integer operations support wraparound and saturation arithmetic (no traps). Subword operations include a complete set of integer math, merge/permute and pack operations. Floating point exception traps can be enabled individually, and all exceptions can either set or accumulate in status bits which can be checked or cleared later. Load and store operations need to be size-aligned (16-bit load/store must be aligned on a 16-bit boundary, 32-bits on a 32-bit boundary), and loads don't generate exceptions - an implementation specific error value is returned to allow for speculative loads.

The TriMedia takes inspiraciton from the Multiflow VLIW computers (mid 1980s), and is designed for VLIW implementations - the TM1000 has 27 execution units (including 2 load/store) and a five instruction word (28-bit instructions), which would be hard to put to use without VLIW. Speculative execution is supported for software - for example the TM1000 has three branch units, even though only one branch can execute at once - at least two potential branches must be blocked by predicates. The TriMedia also tries to reduce branch penalties with a three-cycle branch delay - the three instruction words (up to five instructions each) following a branch will always be executed, much like the smaller branch delays in the MIPS and HP-PA processors.

TMS320C6x: Variable length instruction groups (late 1997)

Texas Instruments tried expanding the high end of its DSPs with the 320C8x (1994?), with two or four DSP cores on a single chip as well as a load-store CPU (thirty two 32-bit regs, load/store, plus FPU) for control. Multiple processors are awkward to program, and the functional units were integrated more tightly in the successor VelociTI architecture.

VelociTI is TI's variable length instruction group version of VLIW, implemented in the TMS320C62x (integer) and TMS320C67x (late 1998, added floating point) DSPs. Each instruction has a bit which indicates whether the next instruction is part of the same group, and branches can arrive in the middle of a group (only following instructions in the group will be executed, as if execution were sequential). 32-bit instructions are fetched in 256-byte packets, but groups can't cross packet boundaries (NOPs are needed in this case to keep the packets aligned, but multiple groups may be in a single packet). There are eight functional units consisting of two data-address 32-bit adders (named .D1 and .D2), two 16-bit multiply (32-bit and floating point in C67x) units (.M1, .M2), two 32/40-bit ALU (and some FPU in C67x) units (.L1, .L2), and two 32/40-bit ALU/branch (other FPU in C67x) units (.S1, .S2). Up to eight instructions can be and dispatched at once to functional units chosen at compile time (not dynamically) - using compile-time scheduling like this reduces most of the decoding complexity - the 320C6201 used only 550,000 transistors (improving performance about 10x on FFT benchmarks).

Registers and functional units are split in two, with sixteen 32-bit registers and one set of functional units on each side. Single registers contain 32-bit integers (or single precision floating point numbers in the C67x), register pairs can be combined for 40-bit integer (a standard DSP format), and 64-bit floating point operations in C67x. Functional units have complete access to all registers on the same side (four reads and one write per register each cycle), with two data cross buses allowing one functional unit on each side to access one register on the opposite side per cycle (.Dx units which only access registers on the same side, though the results can be used as addresses to load or store to either register bank - but only one store per bank each cycle (only one load per bank in C62x)). Control registers are part of side B.

Like the ARM, all instructions are predicated, supporting speculative execution (registers B0, B1, B2, A1, A2 can be checked for zero or non-zero, reducing the number of predicate bits needed) - the two halfs of the CPU can be used to completely execute each side of a branch, and the correct result can be chosen at the end. DSPs typically do not use MMUs, so load/store exceptions do not need to be taken into account.

DSP-like features include saturation arithmetic, and circular addressing (registers 4 to 7 in each bank can be given one of two programmer-defined (power of two) block sizes - incrementing or decrementing a register beyond the end of the block causes it to wrap around).

Intel/HP IA-64 - Height of speculation (late 1999)

The background alone to the IA-64 is an epic in itself (get it??).

When Intel and Hewlett-Packard announced that they would co-develop a successor to the 80x86 and PA-RISC architectures which would retain compatibility with both, and still introduce a revolutionary new type of processor, this raised the curiosity of a large number of people. At its introduction the concept of "RISC" was seen as inherently superior to the older (and less than stunning, even for a "CISC") 80x86 that proponents predicted that the older architecture's dominance in business systems would soon end, but various factors (foremost the inability Microsoft's Windows OS, to hide processor and hardware dependencies, requiring complete compatibility) maintained demand for the 80x86, which in turn provided the revenue to invest in design improvements allowing it to remain competitive.

It was assumed that Intel's strategy would be to maintain market demand for its existing architecture as long as possible to the exclusion of all else, including its own RISC processors, which made the announcement that it would co-develop a replacement to its largest revenue generating product a surprise to many, and caused speculation as to what could be so much better than "RISC" that it could do what "RISC" couldn't.

Intel called the strategy EPIC, or Explicitly Parallel Instruction-set Computing, presenting it as a successor to both RISC and VLIW architectures by using variable length instruction groups and non-parallel semantics (allowing instructions within a group to execute either sequentially or in parallel, as opposed to only in parallel) to overcome the disadvantages of VLIW. However this simple label fell far short of describing the real intent of the new processor, or the variety of techniques and mechanisms pulled together to implement it - the goal of the IA-64 (originally known to the world as "Merced", actually a code name for the first implementation officially named "Itanium") is to reduce interuptions and latencies during execution to allow a general purpose processor to operate as smoothly as a DSP, and then add DSP-like support features (as well as almost every other "good idea" that has been examined since the establishment of "RISC", with the exception of multithreading). The result is a sort of behemoth many people have been skeptical about.

IA-64 features 128 65-bit (64-bit data, 1-bit NaT described below) integer registers (GR0-GR127, GR0 hardwired to be 0) and 128 64-bit floating point registers (FR0-FR127, FR0 set to 0.0, FR1 set to 1.0). With a separate instruction pointer register and eight branch registers (BR0-BR7) containing branch destination addresses (though not part of the architecture, this could allow pre-loading of branch targets - see the Hitachi SH5). Integer registers are arranged as a stack as in the AMD 29K (GR0-GR31 correspond to 29K's global registers, GR32-GR127 to the stack), requiring a separate register cache stack and a regular execution stack (note of irony: AMD abandoned the 29K to concentrate on it's 80x86 clones, while Intel is replacing the 80x86 with an architecture similar to the 29K). While the 29K uses a stack pointer register (registers are selected releative to the stack base pointer), IA-64 renames registers implicitly (GR32 is still referred to as GR32, though it may map to any of the 96 stack registers), and registers are spilled and filled automatically in the IA-64 (during call or return instructions - the "register frame" is specified by an alloc instruction).

Compatibility is retained with the 80x86 (designated IA-32) by mapping registers G8 to G31 to the IA-32 register set, floating point registers FR8 to FR31 to IA-32 FPU and SSE registers, and other system registers, and directly executing IA-32 instructions using this subset of the processor. PA-RISC is similar enough to IA-64 (IA-64 is based on the next version of PA-RISC, originally called SP-PA (Super Parallel Processor Architecture) or PA-WW (Precision Architecture - Wide Word) - the large number of instruction formats and encoding fields reflect this) that instructions will simply be recompiled likely using technology from HP's Dynamo project (described in the Transmeta section). 80x86 instructions are expected to be decoded in hardware.

The main cause of latencies is non-uniform memory access for data and instructions (branches in particular). Like the ARM and TMS 320C6x, all IA-64 instructions are predicated, using sixty-four 1-bit predicate registers (PR0 to PR63, PR0 set to 1) rather than the single condition code like ARM, or a subset of general registers like the 320C6x. Predicate registers can be set in pairs (complements such as true/false) by comparison operations (either replacing or "accumulating" predicates by predicating the compare instruction), or explicitly (transfer to/from a 64-bit general register). These are meant to allow two paths of a branch to be executed simultaneously, and the correct result/state selected at the end (by using predicates on the final instructions), to avoid interrupting the instruction stream.

Unlike a DSP like the TMS320C6x, which uses a similar strategy, memory operations may cause an exception (write protected, swapped out, etc.) while executing one path of a branch, even though that path is discarded (if executed sequentially, the interrupt would not have occurred). It's also desirable to move loads to earlier addresses to overcome latency, but they may be valid only on one path of a branch, so the load must occur after the branch begins. IA-64 provides speculative loads which do not generate an exception, but sets an error flag (NaT bit for integer, NaTVal (special zero-type value) for floating point - these values propogate, so additional integer, logical, floating point and compare operations produce a NaT, NaTVal, or false result), and adds check instructions for NaT and NaTVal, branching to an exception handler if set - other instructions raise an exception trying to use a NaT or NaTVal value.

IA-64 also includes "advanced load" instructions which loads a value (non-speculative) and keeps the address in a buffer (along with support instructions for the buffer). Any store to the same address removes the buffered address, indicating that the load conflicted with a store and must be re-done - this is essentially a lot of hardware dedicated to largely to overcoming a weakness in the C language for functions with "aliased parameters" (see note on C in entry for PDP-11).

Load instructions can also include cache hints to indicate the likelihood the data will be used again soon.

Branches can be program relative (+/-16MB) or use a branch register (computed branches transferred to/from general register). Like the PowerPC, IA-64 includes a separate loop count (LC) register, but adds software controlled register renaming allowing a block of stack registers (GR32-GR127, in blocks of eight), as well as predicate (PR16-PR63) and floating point (FP32-FP127) registers to rotate upwards (value in GR32 will appear in GR33 after one iteration). In addition to the LC, an epilog count (EC) register is added - after the LC register reaches zero, the EC is used until it reaches zero. While the LC is used, the lowest predicate register PR16 is set to 1, while the EC is used, PR16 is set to 0 (in a while-type loop, when the LC isn't used, the EC can still be used, PR16 is set to 0 all times (EC is still used by the loop's branch instruction) - the program must set the appropriate predicate values). This allows a loop to include instructions rearranged by the compiler, with predicates progressively activating and deactivating them during the beginning and end iterations.

This is meant to replace loop unrolling, where a block of instructions within a loop is repeated to reduce branch penalties (and programming hacks like Duff's Device).

Finally, IA-64 supports the parallel subword operations used in 80x86 MMX and SSE, and PA-RISC MAX multimedia extensions (including sturation arithmetic). They follow the Intel model of using floating point registers rather than integer registers as PA-RISC does.

Although apparently complete (some would say "overcomplete"), one glaring exception (surprising many) is the lack of simple multiply operations on integer registers (used routinely in common multi-dimensional array indexes). One possible explanation is to keep all integer register operations to single cycles, while multiply operations are multiple cycles, but it may reduce duplicated circuitry to (see the CDC 6600). As it is, there need to be frequent transfers of registers between integer and floating point registers.

The most promoted idea of the IA-64 before the architecture was revealed was variable length VLIW (like that in the TMS320C6x and Sun MAJC) - 41-bit instructions would be bundled into 128-bit bundles, with 5 template bits to indicate independent instructions. In fact, the template bits encode a set of twenty-four allowable combinations of instruction types (integer, memory (load/store), floating point, branch) and groupings - eight combinations are unspecified. For example, floating point instructions must always follow any load/store instructions, and preceed any integer, which must also preceed any branch instruction. This provides a partial decoding as well as grouping independent instructions.

The IA-64 adds a large amount of hardware support for language features, though at a much lower level than designs such as the Vax or Intel i432 which tried to map language statements directly to machine instructions. Some would describe this support as anti-RISC, while others would describe it as a RISC approach to language support (provide simple components which work together, rather than complex instructions). Some people think the static prediction that a compiler can produce will not match the dyamic scheduling of modern CPUs, but this may be solved by dynamic recompiling (as in HP's Dynamo Project, or Transmeta's "Code Morphing" optimizing software).

In either case the strong support from Intel for this architecture produced as much expectation for its future success at introduction as the PowerPC had when it was promoted as a replacement for the Intel architecture by IBM, Motorola, and Apple. Delays and lower than expected clock speeds for the Itanium (exected mid-2001, 800MHz using a ten-stage pipeline) quickly reduced these expectations.

Sun MAJC - Levels of parallelism (late 1999)

To support the use of Java, Sun planned to produce Java-specific processors which could directly execute the compiled bytecodes, rather than using a virtual machine. Three products were announced - picoJava, a processor core which could be embedded in other designs, microJava, a stand-alone version of the picoJava core, and ultraJava, a high-end high-speed Java processor.

Interest in Java processors did not materialise - language specific processors have traditionally been poorly received except in specific applications, and techniques to translate Java bytecodes to native CPU instructions meant conventional CPUs could execute Java as fast or faster than Java-specific processors. After the introduction of the picoJava and microJava, the UltraJava was apparently cancelled - the design program instead mutated into the MAJC design, though Java still had a strong influence in the design (MAJC stands for Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing).

Simultaneously, Sun had been among the first to add multimedia instructions to CPUs (VIS extensions to SPARC), but using an expensive superscalar processor to do repetitive (and independent) digital signal processing wastes the non-multimedia majority of the CPU. The creation of a multimedia coprocessor became the other goal for the retargeted MAJC design.

A MAJC CPU consists of up to four general purpose units (justified by the empirical observation that there are seldom more than four instructions in a typical program which can be executed in parallel - the lucky number four appears often in the MAJC architecture), all except the first (which is a subset of the others) are identical and capable of the same integer/DSP/multimedia/floating point operations. Each unit can access 128 64-bit registers, divided between those local to each unit and those shared globally by a delimiter register - writes above the delimiter are copied to all local register sets, writes from other units to registers below the delimiter are ignored (this allows four simple register sets (three read ports) to be used instead of one complex set (twelve read ports) - similar in idea to the TMS 320C6x split CPU design).

Local registers allow individual units to execute speculatively, but without the need for rename registers because locally stored results are never visible to other units. A small number of instructions are predicated (using any general register) - only those used to select one of several speculative results (conditional move, store, etc, as well as a pick conditional move, which selects one of two register values based on the predicate in a third). MAJC also supports speculative loads, using a scoreboard to track the destination register, load address, and whether it completed, failed, or is still in progress. When checked a failed load will be re-executed transparently, when not checked a failed load returns a zero (unchecked failed loads can be used for validating NULL pointers). This is a simpler version of the IA-64 advanced load instructions (loads and stores are allowed to complete out of order in MAJC).

Like the TMS 320C6x and Intel/HP IA-64, MAJC uses variable length instruction groups - between one and four. Like the 320C6x, the instruction word encodes which functional units will receive each instruction, but MAJC specifies them implicitly (in order, first to unit 0, next to unit 1, and so on). Four bits from the first instruction in the group specify the packet size (rather than using one bit in each instruction to indicate dependencies) - unit 0 is a subset of the other three units, with an eight bit opcode instead of eleven.

Saturation arithmatic and integer, fixed, and floating point parallel subword (or SIMD) operations can be executed by each functional unit using any registers. Like the original MIPS or PA-RISC processors, hardware interlocks to prevent registers from being used before a result is written are not specified except when there is an unpredictable delay (only loads will stall the processor, using the load register scoreboard) - the compiler is expected to schedule instructions to avoid conflicts (binary compatability is not a requirement between MAJC processors, since binary translators are expected to allow compatibility, as they do with Java bytecode, or the Transmeta Code Morphing processors).

In addition to instruction level parallelism, MAJC supports vertical multithreading, where registers for up to four threads can be switched with little overhead (using a non-speculative type of register renaming) - a concept pioneered in the Tera supercomputer (supporting 128 threads without cache) and IBM Northstar POWER CPU (two threads), and expected in the Alpha 21364. When a cache miss occurs and there are no more independent instructions, execution can switch over to another thread (which may have been waiting for a cach miss load which has finished).

The MAJC is also intended to include multiple processors on a single chip (a feature planned for the POWER4 and Alpha 21364 CPUs) to encourage automatic "speculative" parallelisation of normally sequential blocks (such as procedures or loops), by creating a separate memory image for the new thread, then merging the changes back when both threads are finished. The technique was pioneered in the Myrias supercomputer, and adapted for general multiprocessor computers as a product called PAMS (Parallel Applications Management System) - however PAMS requires compiler directives in C, C++, and Fortran programs, while Sun designed a system based on the better behaved features of the Java language (no pointers, pass by value only, automatic memory management) to discover parallelism without programmer intervention.

Overall MAJC appears to be a very flexible design on many levels, in contrast to the emphasis on very low-level features of the others of its generation (IA-64, TMS 320C6X, TriMedia). It's not intended to be a general purpose CPU, although it appears to be flexible enough that in the future, it could move in that direction for some applications.

Transmeta Crusoe - Leaving hardware (January 2000)

In the early 1990s, Apple decided that the Motorola 680x0 series was not keeping up with the Intel 80x86 series, largely because PCs were Intel's primary market, while Motorola CPUs were used more in embedded systems. RISC designs were simpler and could be improved with less effort, so Apple switched to the PowerPC CPU in 1994 (after prototypes in 1991 using the 88K), but to maintain compatibility, needed to emulate the 680x0. The initial emulator interpreted 68LC040 (without FPU) code, and a later version stored translated blocks of code, and ran faster than Apples previous high end Macintoshes.

This impressed IBM engineers enough that a project was started to emulate the 80386+ architecture on a PowerPC (known as the PowerPC 615), but the project was cancelled (apparently after successful versions were completed - possibly because of performance, problems with efficiency using the PowerPC architecture (the 80x86 much more awkward and complicated than the 680x0), marketing decisions, or strategic/management decisions - I don't know, but the computer industry was very volatile at the time, and the path of the future was not at all clear). However development on the conncept continued with the DAISY project (Dynamically Architected Instruction Set from Yorktown), which translated to a hypothetical VLIW CPU instead of the PowerPC. Both the DAISY system, and a later project called Dynamo from Hewlett-Packard (which ran PA-RISC on PA-RISC), could optimise code as it ran (Dynamo could improve PA-RISC performance by up to 20% over non-emulated code).

Several engineers left IBM and helped found Transmeta, which created the missing VLIW processor, and created a new dynamic translator (called a "Code Morpher" by Transmeta) to emulate the 80x86. Two Crusoe CPUs were introduced - TM3200 (changed because of trademark conflicts to TM3210) and TM5400 - with dynamic translators for both to run 80x86 code (though not exclusively - one early demo showed the "Quake" video game being played, and while most was compiled as 80x86 code, part of the inner rendering loop was in Java, so the CPU switched to an emulated Java CPU for every iteration of the loop with no visible loss of speed).

The initial physical CPU architecture closely resembled the Sun MAJC. It includes sixty-four 32-bit registers, and five functional units - VLIW words are either 64-bit (two instructions) or 128-bit (four instructions). This is less flexible than variable-length instruction groups, and hinders compatibility (a common VLIW problem), but apart from the translator, software is not intended to ever run directly on the CPU, so compatibility is not considered (the TM3200 and TM5400 are not binary compatible). Like MAJC, Crusoe CPUs have an instruction to select the correct result, after both have been produced speculatively (using parallel instructions).

Low power support (called "Long Run" by Transmeta) can reduce both the clock speed and the voltage used.

Emulated registers are "checkpointed" between blocks of optimised code, so that exceptions (which would otherwise occur in a different order than original, untranslated code) cause the processor state to be returned to the beginning of the block, and interpreted in order (one at a time) until the exception is encountered again at the proper instruction (similar to the superscalar 88110 hardware history buffer). Memory stores are buffered, and only written to memory at the end of a block (when the next checkpoint is saved).

Loads are protected using a scoreboard system like MAJC, except that stores raise an exception, rather than automatically reloading from the address. This allows multiple loads from a single address to be moved into the exception handler, out of the main program block - after the first load, intervening stores may or may not alter the loaded data, so an alternate store instruction is used which raises an exception if the address is the same as the load. The extra loads are skipped if they are not needed (eliminating memory delays, rather than just reducing them as cache does).

Translated original code is write-protected, so that any modification is detected, and the translated code is purged or modified.

Like DAISY and Dynamo, the Transmeta Cord Morpher profiles code as it executes (inserting profiling instructions in translated code - particularly branch profiling, eliminating the complex branch prediction curcuitry in many CPUs), and will stop and optimise heavily executed blocks (one engineer reported a very simple 80386 benchmark almost disappeared as the optimiser recognized that the code did no actual work, and eliminated most of it).

Eleven Engineering XInC - Real-time multithreading (August 2002)

Vertical multithreading was used in the CDC 6600 peripheral controller to compensate for I/O latencies. The XInC (code named "Hammerhead") uses the idea in a microcontroller to allow multiple threads in a real-time environment - every clock cycle executes a different thread (a variation called a "barrel processor"), so every thread takes a known amount of time regardless of what else is executing. It's meant to eliminate the need for a real-time operating system (RTOS).

The CPU supports eight threads, each with a set of eight 16-bit general purpose registers, one program counter (PC), and one condition code register. It has eight pipeline stages for all instructions - once an instruction starts, instructions from the other seven threads must be dispatched before the next in the original thread can be executed. This makes it appear to the program that each instruction executes in one cycle, so there are no pipeline stalls between instructions (this also simplifies circuitry because data dependency doesn't need to be checked). Some functions (multiply, bit operations) are implemented as on-chip peripherals, like the TI MSP430, and it has hardware synchronization (semaphores) between threads.

Threads can monitor peripherals, so interrupts aren't necessary. The simplicity allows a 16-bit XInC to be little more complex than an 8-bit Intel 8051.

Weird and Innovative Chips

Intel 432, Extraordinary complexity (1980)

The Intel iAPX 432 was a complex, object oriented 32-bit processor that included high level operating system support in hardware, such as process scheduling and interprocess messaging. It was intended to be the main Intel microprocessor (some said the 80286 was envisioned as a step between the 8086 and the 432, others claim the 8086 was to be the bridge to the 432, rushed through design when the 432 was late and resulting in its many design problems). The 432 actually included four chips. The GDP (processor) and IP (I/O controller) were introduced in 1980, and the BIU (Bus Interface Unit) and MCU (Memory Control Unit) were introduced in 1983 (but not widely). The GDP complexity was split into 2 chips (decode/sequencer and execution units, like the Western Digital MCP-1600), so it wasn't really a microprocessor.

The GDP was exclusively object oriented - normal linear memory access wasn't allowed, and there was hardware support for data hiding, methods, inheritance, late binding, and access protection, and it was promoted as being ideal for the Ada programming language. To enforce this, permission and type checks for every memory access (via a 2 stage segmentation) slowed execution (despite cached segment tables). It supported up to 2^24 segments, each limited to 64K in size (within a 2^32 address space), but the object oriented nature of the design meant that was not a real limitation. The stack oriented design meant the GDP had no user data registers. Instructions were bit encoded (and bit-aligned in memory), ranging from 6 bits to 321 bits long (the T-9000 has variable length byte encoded/aligned instructions) and could be very complex.

The BIU defined the bus, designed for multiprocessor support allowing up to 63 modules (BIU or MCU) on a bus and up to 8 independent buses (allowing memory interleaving to speed access). The MCU did automatic parity checking and ECC error correcting. The total system was designed to be fault tolerant to a large degree, and each of these parts contributes to that reliability.

Despite these advanced features, the 432 didn't catch on. The main reason was that it was slow, sometimes up to five or ten times slower than a 68000 or Intel's own 80286. Part of this was the lack of local (user) data registers, or a data cache. Part of this was the fault-tolerant BIU, which defined an (asynchronous protocol) clocked bus that resulted in 25% to 40% of the access time being used by wait states. The instructions weren't aligned on bytes or words, and took longer to decode. In addition, the protections imposed on the objects slowed data access. Finally, the implementation of the GDP on two chips instead of one produced a slower product. However, the fact that this complex design was produced and bug free is impressive.

Its high level architecture was similar to the Transputer systems, but it was implemented in a way that was much slower than other processors, while the T-414 wasn't just innovative, but much faster than other processors of the time.

The Intel i960 is sometimes considered a successor of the 432 (also called "RISC applied to the 432"), and does have similar hardware support for context switching. This path came about indirectly through the 960 MC designed for the BiiN machine, which was still very complex (it included many i432 object-oriented ideas, including a tagged memory system).

Rekursiv, an object oriented processor

The Rekursiv processor is actually a 4 chip processor motherboard, not a microprocessor, but is neat. It was created by a Scottish Hi-Fi manufacturing company called Linn, to control their manufacturing system. The owner (Ivor) was a believer in automation, and had automated the company as much as possible with Vaxes, but wasn't satisfied, so hired software experts to design a new system, which they called LINGO. It was completely object oriented, like Smalltalk (and unlike C++, which allows object concepts, but handles them in a conventional way), but too slow on the VAXes, so Linn commissioned a processor designed for the language.

This is not the only processor designed specifically for a language that is slow on other CPUs. Several specialized LISP processors, such as the Scheme-79 lisp processor, were created, but this chip is unique in its object oriented features at a time when the concept wasn't well-known (actually, I hadn't the foggiest idea of what object-oriented programming was when I first learned about it - obvious from reading unrevised versions of this description). It also manages to support objects without the slowness of the Intel 432.

The Rekursiv processor features a writable instruction set, and is highly parallel. The four chips were Numerik, Logik, Objekt, and Klock.

The CPU itself consisted of Numerik and Logik. Numerik was the ALU, based on AMD 2900-series bitslice CPU components (sixteen 32-bit registers, ALU, barrel shifter, 32x32-bit multiplier). The CPU was similar to the Patriot Scientific PSC1000, with sixteen registers, an evaluation stack, and a return address stack. A 64k area (16k X 128 bit words) held microcode, allowing an instruction set to be constructed on the fly, and could change for different objects. There were two program counters, one for application instructions, one for the microcode routines which implement them. Microcode used sixty-field 160-bit words.

Logik was the instruction sequencer.

Objekt was the object manager/MMU, which swapped objects to and from disk as needed (completely invisible to the CPU, allowing microcoded instructions to access objects without generating exceptions and forcing them to roll back and restart - microcode could be recursive, hence the processor's name). Objects were identified by 40-bit tags, with the actual reference, types, and sizes stored in three 64K hash table (collisions were resolved by a fourth table holding the ID of the object actually stored in the tables at a given time). Objects could be relocated transparently, facilitating garbage collection.

Klock was the clock and support circuitry.

It executed LINGO fast enough, and is a perfect match between language and CPU, but it could also use more conventional languages, such as Smalltalk or C. Unfortunately, Linn did not have the resources to pursue this very promising (the prototype was "surprisingly easy" to implement) architecture. However, the writable instruction set concept (specifically, isolating CPU implementation from the program code) was resurrected and automated in the Transmeta Crusoe architecture, using sophisticated compiling and translating technology to implement the Intel 80x86 instruction set on a custom VLIW processor.

MISC M17: Casting Forth in Silicon[1] (pre 1988?)

Forth is used widely for programming embedded systems because of its simplicity and efficiency. It explicitly manipulates data on a stack, and so defines a simple virtual machine architechture which makes programs independent of the CPU - only the interpreter needs to be ported. Because of this, extra CPU features are wasted when running Forth programs, and since cost reduction is important to embedded systems, it's logical to want a simpler, cheaper CPU which runs only Forth programs.

The Minimum Instruction Set Computer (MISC) Inc. M17 CPU wasn't the first Forth microprocessor (the Novix NC4000/4016 (1985?) designed by Forth inventor Chuck Moore came before), but the M17 is a good example of low cost Forth CPUs. It featured two 16 bit stack pointers (Data and Return (subroutine) stacks), plus three 16-bit top of stack data registers (X, Y, Z, plus an extra LastX which could hold values popped from X). An I/O register buffered data during I/O while the ALU operated concurrently. Finally, there was an Index register which normally held the top element of the Return stack, but could also be used as a loop counter, and a 6 instruction buffer (for short loops, like the Motorola 68010).

Address space was 64K, but external memory could be either a single bank or up to five banks, signaled by status pins, depending on the context - data stack, return stack, program code, A or B buffers. Some other Forth processors include on chip stack memory, and while most (including the M17) were 16 bit, some 32 bit Forth processors have also been developed.

The simplicity of design allows the M17 (and most other Forth CPUs, such as the more recent 7,000 transistor MuP21 (also designed by Chuck Moore), which includes a composite video generator on chip) to execute instructions in only two cycles (load, execute), or one cycle each from the instruction cache, making them faster than more complex CPUs (though instructions do less, the higher clock speed usually compensates). Stack advocates often cite this as the strongest advantage for stack based designs, though critics contend that the state nature of stacks compared to registers make conventional speedup tricks such as pipelining and superscalar execution far more complex than using a register array. As it is, register-based load-store processors dominate when it comes to speed.

Other prominent Forth-based microprocessors include the Harris RTX-2000, a descendant of the NC4016 (the "-2000" like the name of the Motorola 68000 comes from the fact that it only uses about 2000 gates in its design) which has the ability to group certain instructions like the T-9000 Transputer and microJava processors. Chuck Moore went on to design the 20-bit MuP21, and is involved in the highly integrated F21 (expected late 1998/early 1999) CPUs. A 32 bit CPU, the FRISC-3 (Forth Reduced Instruction Set Computer) was produced by Silicon Composers and renamed the SC-32, and includes an automatic stack-to-memory cache, eliminating the main weakness of Forth chips, the fixed stack sizes.

[1] Sun Microelectronics' first slogan for its Java Processors was "Casting Java in Silicon".

AT&T CRISP/Hobbit, CISC amongst the RISC (1987)

The AT&T Hobbit ATT92010 was inspired by the Bell Labs C Machine project, aimed at a design optimised for the C language. Since C is a stack based language, the processor is optimised for memory to memory stack based execution, and has no user visible registers (stack pointer is modified by special instructions, an accumulator is in the stack), with the goal of simplifying the compiler as much as possible.

Instead of registers, a thirty-two entry 32 bit two ported stack cache is provided. This is similar to the stack cache of the AMD 29000 (in Hobbit it's much smaller (64 32-bit words) but is easily expandable), and Hobbit has no global registers. Addresses can be memory direct or indirect (for pointers) relative to the stack pointer without extra instructions or operand bits. The cache is not optimised for multiprocessors.

Hobbit has an instruction prefetch buffer (3K in 92010, 6K in the 92020), like the 8086, but decodes the variable length (1, 3 or 5 halfword (16 bit)) instructions into a thirty-two entry instruction cache. Branches are not delayed, and a prediction bit directs speculative branch execution. The decode unit folds branches into the decoded instructions (which include next and alternate next PC), so a predicted branch does not take any clock cycles. The three stage execution unit takes instructions from the decode cache. Results can be forwarded when available to any prior stage as needed.

Though CISC in philosophy, the Hobbit is greatly simplified compared to traditional memory-data designs, and features some very elegant design features. AT&T prefers to call it a RISC processor, and performance is comparable to similar load-store designs such as the ARM. Its most prominent use was in the EO Personal Communicator, a competitor to Apple's Newton which uses the ARM processor.

T-9000, parallel computing (1994)

The INMOS T-9000 is the latest version of the Transputer architecture, a processor designed to be hooked up to other processors for parallel processing. The previous versions were the 16 bit T-212 and 32 bit T-414 and T-800 (which included a 64 bit FPU) processors (1983 and 1985). The instruction set is minimised, like a RISC design, but is based on a stack/accumulator design (similar in idea to the PDP-8), and designed around the OCCAM language. The most important feature is that each chip contains 4 serial links to connect the chips in a network.

While the transputers were originally faster than their contemporaries, recent load-store designs have surpassed them. The T-9000 was an attempt to regain the lead. It starts with the architecture of the T-800 which contains only three 32 bit integer and three 64 bit floating point registers which are used as an evaluation stack - they are not general purpose. Instead, like the TMS 9900, it uses memory, addressed relative to the workspace register (the 9900 workspace contained only sixteen registers, the Transputer workspace can be any length, though access slows down with every 4 bits used for offset from the workspace register - sixteen bytes can be accessed with just one instruction, 256 needs two, and so on). This allows very fast context switching, less than a microsecond, speeding and simplifying process scheduling enough that it is automated in hardware (supporting two priority levels and event handling (link messages and interrupts)). The Intel 432 also attempted some hardware process scheduling, but was unsuccessful.

Unlike the TMS 9900, the T-9000 is far faster than memory, so the CPU has several levels of high speed caches and memory types. The main cache is 16K, and is designed for 3 reads and 1 write simultaneously. The workspace cache is based on 32 word rotating buffers, allows 2 reads and 1 write simultaneously.

Instructions are in bytes, consisting of 4 bit op code and 4 bit data (usually a 16 byte offset into the workspace), but prefix instructions can load extra data for an instruction which follows, 4 bits at a time. Less frequent instructions can be encoded with 2 (such as process start, message I/O) or more bytes (CRC calculations, floating point operations, 2D block copies and scheduler queue management). The stack architecture makes instructions very compact, but executing one instruction byte per clock can be slow for multibyte instructions, so the T-9000 has a grouper which gathers instruction bytes (up to eight) into a single CISC-type instruction then sent into the 5 stage pipeline (fetching four per cycle, grouping up to 8 if slow earlier instructions allow it to catch up). For example, two concurrent memory loads (simple or indexed), a stack/ALU operation and a store (a[i] = b[2] + c[3]) can be grouped.

The T-9000 contains 4 main internal units, the CPU, the VCP (handling the individual links of the previous chips, which needed software for communication), the PMI, which manages memory, and the Scheduler.

This processor is ideal for a model of parallel processing known as systolic arrays (a pipeline is a simple example). Even larger networks can be created with the C104 crossbar switch, which can connect 32 transputers or other C104 switches into a network hundreds of thousands of processors large. The C104 acts like a instant switch, not a network node, so the message is passed through, not stored. Communication can be at close to the speed of direct memory access.

Like the many CPUs, the Transputers can adapt to a 64, 32, 16, or 8 bit bus. They can also feed off a 5 MHz clock, generating their own internal clock (up to 50MHz for the T-9000) from this signal, and contain internal RAM, making them good for high performance embedded applications.

Unfortunately excessive delays in the T-9000 design (partly because of the stack based design) left it uncompetitive with other CPUs (roughly 36 MIPS at 50 MHz). The T-4xx and T-8xx architecture still exist in the SGS-Thomson ST20 microcore family.

As a note, the T-800 FPU is probably the first large scale commercial device to be proven correct through formal design methods.

Patriot Scientific ShBoom: from Forth to Java (April 1996)

An innovative stack-oriented processor, the 32 bit ShBoom PSC1000 was originally meant for high speed embedded Forth applications (like the M17 and others), but Patriot Scientific has decided to position it as a Java processor as well - though it doesn't directly execute Java bytcodes, ShBoom instructions are also byte length, and Java bytecodes can be translated very closely to the native ShBoom instruction set. In addition, unlike pure stack-based machines, the ShBoom has several general registers.

At 100MHz, the microprocessing unit (MPU) executes about one instruction per cycle, without normal instruction/data caches. Byte instructions are loaded in groups of four (32 bits), and executed sequentially. The problem of loading constants is handled in a unique way. The 68000 and PDP-11 could load a constant stored in program memory following the current instruction, and the Hitachi SH uses a similar PC-relative mode to load constants. Processors like the Mips R3000 load half a constant at a time using two instructions. Transputers always contain 4 bits of data and 4 bits of op code in each byte instruction.

The ShBoom loads single bytes of data from the rightmost bytes of the current instruction group, and words from program memory following the current group. For example, a load byte instruction could be in position one, two or three from the left, the data would always be in the fourth (rightmost) byte. Four consecutive load word instructions would be grouped together, and the constants taken fromthe four 32 bit words following the group. This ensures data alignment without extra circuitry (but may get in the way in the future, such as for 64 bit versions).

There are sixteen 32 bit global registers (g0 to g15), a sixteen register local stack (r0 to r14 can be used as a stack frame (R15 is not user visible), or as a Forth return stack), and an eighteen element operand stack (s0 to s17, accessed only by data stack operations) - the stacks automatically spill and refill to and from memory, s0 and r0 can also be used as index registers, g0 is used for multiply and divide instructions. There's also an extra index register x, a loop counter ct, and a mode register (like a CC or PSW register).

The CPU also contains an I/O coprocessor on chip for simultanious I/O (much more advanced than the I/O buffer register of the M17, but the same idea), which communicates with the MPU via the global data registers. It's a simple, independent unit which executes small data transfer programs until I/O is complete. There are also a programmable memory interface, 8 channel DMA controller, and interrupt controller.

The ShBoom architecture is a very innovative and elegant attempt at combining stack and register oriented architectures, with emphasis on the stack operation simplicity. It would give Java a good home.

Sun picoJava - not another language-specific processor! (October 1997)

Sun first introduced Java as a combination of language, integrated classes, and a run time system called the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). To support Java, Sun Microelectronics designed picoJava and microJava hardware to execute Java bytecode programs faster than a virtual machine or recompiled code.

The picoJava I (early 1997) is a stack oriented CPU core like the JVM, with a 64 entry stack cache (similar to the Patriot Scientific ShBoom PSC1000), but there are interesting differences between it and Forth-style stack CPUs. Java only uses a single stack (like many languages such as C, which the AT&T Hobbit and AMD 29K were designed to support) and the picoJava CPU enhances performance with a 'dribbler' unit which constantly updates a complete copy of the stack cache in memory, without affecting other CPU operations (similar to a write-back cache), so stack frames can be added without waiting for a stack frame to be stored. Some Java instructions are complex, so the CPU has microcoded instructions, and a 4 stage pipeline (fetch, decode, execute/cache, stack writeback). Finally, picoJava groups (or 'folds') load and stack operations together, executing both at once (treating the top of stack as an accumulator) (this is a much simpler version of instruction grouping tried in the Transputer T-9000), This usually eliminates 60% of stack operation inefficiency. Seldom used instructions aren't implemented, but are emulated using trap handlers.

The picoJava II (October 1997) core is used in the first actual CPU from Sun, the microJava701. It extends the pipeline to 6 stages, and can fold up to four instructions into one operation. It also adds a FPU and separate 16Kb I/D caches.

Imsys Cjip - embedded WISC (Writable Instruction Set Computer) (Mid 2000)

Swedish company Imsys AB started making components for embedded imaging systems, and decided to expand into more general microcontroller systems with the Cjip (pronounced... somehow).

Binary compatibility has been a problem since the beginning of programmable computers, in that it ties software (abstract, theoretical) to particular hardware (fixed, physically limited). There have been attempts to reduce this through hardware using rewritable microcode (Western Digital MCP-1600), as well as software (Transmeta Crusoe which interprets, translates, and optimises 80x86 code as its executed, and the Patriot Scientific ShBoom PSC1000 which recompiles Java bytecodes to its native instruction set when loaded). Since the Cjip is a very low resource CPU, the software overhead would be unacceptable, so Imsys followed the hardware approach using rewritable microcode. Imsys had some experience with UCSD Pascal, an early VM system.

Unlike the DEC Alpha PALCode or Rekursiv CPU, Cjip uses actual 72-bit wide microcode, which is far more efficient but harder to program, while unlike the MCP-1600, Cjip microcode can be modified at runtime. In addition, instructions can be emulated with regular program subroutines. Four initial instruction sets available include a legacy Z-80-style, and three stack-based virtual machines: C/C++ and 32-bit Forth, Java, and 16-bit Forth

The microcode sees four banks of 256 bytes, split into: evaluation stack, internal locals stack (microcode subroutines), general data (emulated registers), microcode internal variables. The evaluation and data stack spill into external RAM. The general data stack is in external memory only.

Language-specific processors have generally failed, because economies from widespread use of general-purpose processors allows new technology to be incorporated more quickly. The difference with Cjip is that its language support is not limited to just one language - or any language at all. It will be interesting to see if the advantages of generalized language support are enough to win acceptance over competing processors.


Appendix A

RISC and CISC definitions:

The technical term RISC has been swamped by the marketing term RISC to the point that it's lost almost all meaning as a technical term. Almost everything now is described as RISC, even when it isn't. A historical perspective can help illustrate the point in the development of computer architechtures which "RISC" was invented to describe.

Accumulator architecture
The first computers were accumulator based, performing operations on data stored in a register with data loaded from memory locations. Addresses were coded in program memory, and could only be changed by modifying the program. Initially machines only had one (which all operations implicitly refered to), but later multiple accumulators were sometimes used.
Index registers
Index registers were used to hold memory addresses, while accumulators were still used for computation. Operations could specify an accumulator for the one operand, and an index register to fetch the second operand from memory.
Memory to memory architectures
With a little modification, index and accumulator registers could be used interchangably - they were now general purpose, meaning that a register could hold either data or an address. Some designs took this further, allowing the value in memory to be an indirect address itself - sometimes in an unlimited chain of references.
Stack architectures
General registers can be made even more flexible allowing them to hold multiple values (either data or addresses) in a useful order - in other words, stacks. At the same time, the design can be simplified back to a single stack (as an accumulator architecture) with no loss of flexibility, providing swap and duplicate operations are provided.
Register to register architectures
Although conceptually powerful, memory to memory operations are limited in speed because memory access is relatively slow, while registers are fast. The obvious improvement is to increase the number of registers, and restrict or simplify memory access (limited to load and store operations) to simplify the overall design. The first major system to follow this idea was the CDC 6600, but the idea was also explored in the IBM 801 project. However it wasn't until the Berkeley RISC design named this type of design a "Reduced Instruction Set Computer". The term CISC was also invented at this time solely to give a name to the prior generation (memory-memory designs).

A diagram can show the approximate lineage of processor architectures:

   /     \
Stack...Memory-   (CISC)
        Load-     (RISC)

At that time, RISC and "load-store" were often synonymous, but RISC usually referred to a list of features:

Register windows turned out to not be a useful enough idea to catch on, so have been mostly forgotten. RISC is more commonly used to refer to a design philosophy than a list of features (actually implementation techniques), especially since most of them have been applied to CISC designs (pipelines as far back as the Zilog Z8000, register windows in the Hitachi H16 and H32, and microcode eliminated in most modern designs). Basically, RISC asks whether hardware (for complex instructions or memory-to-memory operations) is necessary, or whether it can be replaced by software (simpler instructions or load/store architecture). Higher instruction bandwidth is usually offset by a simpler chip that can run at a higher clock speed, and more available optimisations for the compiler.

By contrast, the CISC philosophy has been that if added hardware can result in an overall increase in speed, it's good - the ultimate goal of mapping every high level language statement on to a single CPU instruction. The disadvantage is that it's harder to increase the clock speed of a complex chip. The PowerPC is a good example of this idea applied to a load-store architecture.

IBM System 360/370/390: The Mainframe(1964)

The IBM System/360 is a sort of geologic feature in the computer world, and isn't at all a microprocessor, but was certainly influential (and enough people asked for it to be included in this list). It was designed to be an "all around" (as in, 360 degrees) system usable for any computing task, and as a result created many of the standards for the computing industry, such as 8-bit bytes and byte addressable memory, 32-bit words, segmented and paged memory (see the Intel 80386), packed decimal and the EBCDIC character set (the latter isn't really a standard, as most systems use ASCII, except for the fact that immense amounts of data are stored on IBM System/360s in EBCDIC format).

The S/360 has sixteen 32 bit general purpose registers (occasionally paired up as 64 bit registers), four 64 bit floating point registers (or two 128 bit registers), and a Program Status Word like that in the DEC VAX, except that in the S/360 the PSW includes the program counter (24 bits in the S/360, 31 bits in the S/370 XA (eXtended Architecture, pre 1983) and later versions). The S/370 (pre 1977) also includes sixteen control registers used by the operating system.

A two stage pipeline was first introduced in the IBM 3033 (1977). Instructions are fetched from the cache into three 32 bit buffers. The Instruction Pre-Processing Function (IPPF) then decodes them, generates operand addresses and stores them in operand address registers, and places source operands in operand buffers. Decoded instructions were placed into a 4 entry queue until the execution unit was ready.

In some high end models (such as 360/91, 1967) when a conditional branch occurs, the most likely next instruction is loaded into the IPPF buffer, but the previous next instruction is not discarded, so either can be executed without penalty. Two speculative branches can be buffered this way. The 360/91 also featued register renaming, instruction pipelining, instruction caching, out-of-order floating point execution (credited to Robert Tomasulo) and imprecise interrupts (rediscovered almost two decades later by microprocessor designers). Some had a "loop mode" like the Motorola 68010.

Addressing was originally 24 bit, but was extended to 31 bits (the high bit indicated whether to use 24 or 32 bits) with the XA architecture (This caused problems with software which stored type information in the unused 8 bits of a 32 bit word. The same thing happened when the Motorola 68000 was expanded from 24 to 32 bit addressing). The S/360 used completely position independent (register+offset and register+index) addressing modes. Virtual memory was added in the S/370, and used a segment and paging method - the first 8 bits of an address indicated an entry in a segment table which is added to the next 4 or 8 bits to get the page table index which contains the upper (12 or 20) bits of the physical memory address, and the rest of the address provides the lower 12 bits (the Intel 80386 uses a similar method, while the Motorola 68030 uses fixed length logical/physical pages instead of variable length segments).

Like the DEC VAX, the S/370 has been implemented as a microprocessor. The Micro/370 discarded all but 102 instructions (some supervisor instructions differed), with a coprocessor providing support for 60 others, while the rest are emulated (as in the MicroVAX). The Micro/370 had a 68000 compatible bus, but was otherwise completely unique (some legends claim it was a 68000 with modified microcode plus a modified 8087 as the coprocessor, others say IBM started with the 68000 design and completely replaced most of the core, keeping the bus interface, ALU, and other reusable parts, which is more likely).

More recently, with increased microprocessor complexity, the line was moved to microprocessor versions. A complete S/390 superscalar microprocessor with 64K L1 cache (at up to 350MHz, a higher clock rate than the 200MHz Intel's Pentium Pro available at the time) was been designed. Addressing was expanded to 44 bits, and in October 2000, a 64-bit version was introduced.

VAX: The Penultimate CISC (1978)

The VAX architecture wasn't designed as a microprocessor, though single chip versions were implemented (around 1984). However, it and its predecessor, the PDP-11, helped inspire design of the Motorola 68000, Zilog Z8000, and particularly the National Semiconductor 32xxx series CPUs. It was considered the most advanced CISC design, and the closest so far to the ultimate CISC goal. This is one reason that the VAX 11/780 is used as the speed benchmark for 1 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second), though actual execution was apparently closer to 0.5 MIPS.

The VAX was a 32 bit architecture, with a 32 bit address range (split into 1G sections for process space, process specific system space, system space, and unused/reserved for future use). Each process has its own 1G process and 1G process system address space, with memory allocated in pages.

It features sixteen user visible 32 bit registers. Registers 12 to 15 are special - AP (Argument Pointer), FP (Frame Pointer), SP and PC (user, supervisor, executive, and kernal modes have separate SPs in R14, like the 68000 user and supervisor modes). All these registers can be used for data, addressing and indexing. A 64 bit PSL (Program Status Longword) keeps track of interrupt levels, program status, condition codes, and access mode (kernal (hardware management), executive (files/records), supervisor (interpreters), user (programs/data)).

The VAX 11 featured an 8 byte instruction prefetch buffer, like the 8086, while the VAX 8600 has a full 6 stage pipeline. Instructions mimic high level language constructs, and provide dense code. For example, the CALL instruction, which not only handles the argument list itself, but enforces a standard procedure call for all compilers. However, the complex instructions aren't always the fastest way of doing things. For example, the INDEX instruction was 45% to 60% faster when by replaced by simpler VAX instructions. This was one inspiration for the RISC philosophy.

Further inspiration came from the MicroVAX (VAX 78032) implementation, since in order to reduce the architecture to a single (integer) chip, only 175 of the 304 instructions (and 6 of 14 native data types) were implemented (through microcode), while the rest were emulated - this subset included 98% of instructions in a typical program. The optional FPU implemented 70 instructions and 3 VAX data types, which was another 1.7% of VAX instructions. All remaining VAX instructions were only used 0.2% of the time, and this allowed MicroVAX designs to eventually exceed the speed of full VAX implementations, before being replaced by the Alpha architecture.

High end versions of the VAX from 8700 onward eliminated the need for emulation while retaining the simpler implementation by decoding the VAX instruction set into a set of simple microinstructions, which were executed by a fast core (a technique later used by National Semiconductor in the Swordfish as well as Intel and competitors in Pentium Pro-type CPUs.

RISC Roots: CDC 6600 (1965)

Most RISC concepts can be traced back to the Control Data Corporation CDC 6600 'Supercomputer' designed by Seymour Cray (1964?), which emphasized a small (74 op codes) load/store and register-register instruction as a means to greater performance. The CDC 6600 itself has roots in the UNIVAC 1100, which many CDC 6600 engineers worked on.

The CDC 6600 was a 60-bit machine ('bytes' were 6 bits each, but that was a software convention, there was no hardware support for values smaller than a 60-bit word until later versions added a Compare and Move Unit (CMU) for character, string and block operations - a story repeated with the initial DEC Alpha processor), with an 18-bit address range. It had eight 18 bit A and 18 bit B (address) and eight 60 bit X (data) registers, with useful side effects - loading an address into A1, A2, A3, A4 or A5 caused a load from memory at that address into registers X1, X2, X3, X4 or X5. Similarly, A6 and A7 registers had a store effect on X6 and X7 registers - loading an address into A0 had no side effects. As an example, to add two arrays into a third, the starting addresses of the source could be loaded into A2 and A3 causing data to load into X2 and X3, the values could be added to X6, and the destination address loaded into A6, causing the result to be stored in memory. Incrementing A2, A3, and A6 (after adding) would step through the array. Side effects such as this are decidedly anti-RISC, but very nifty. This vector-oriented philosophy is more directly expressed in later Cray computers.

Most instructions operated on X registers, with only simple address add/subtract on the A and B address registers. Like many RISC-era CPUs, register B0 was hardwired to 0 (because there was no increment instruction, often B1 was set to 1 at the start of a program and used instead, which has made some architects with CDC-6600 experience decide that hard-wired registers are a waste of effort anyway).

Integer and floating point values used the same registers. Initially integer multiply operations were to be omitted, but were added by modifying the floating point circuitry, but limiting multiplication to 48-bit integers (check out the integer multiplication in the Intel/HP IA-64). Double precision was supported with instructions which computed the least significant 48 bits of a floating point result, so a double precision number consisted of two single precision numbers - a truncated single precision value, and a smaller number which could be added for the full value (a bit clumsy but it worked).

Only one instruction could be issued per cycle, but multiple independent functional units (eight in the CDC 6600) meant instruction execution in different units could overlap (a scoreboard register prevented instructions from issuing to a unit if the operands weren't available). The units weren't pipelined until the CDC 7600 (1969 - nine mostly different units), at which point instructions could be issued without waiting for operands (they would wait for them in the functional unit if necessary). Compared to the variable instruction lengths of other machines, instructions were only 15 bits (or 30 bits - 12 bits with a 18-bit constant) in 60-bit "parcels" (30-bit instructions could not cross parcel boundaries), to simplify decoding (a RISC-like feature). The previous 7 instructions were stored in a buffer (like the Motorola 68020 loop buffer). Branches had to arrive at the beginning of a 60-bit parcel.

The CDC-6600 CPU had no condition code register - all comparisons were part of branch instructions.

I/O was accomplished concurrently with a barrel processor - to cope with I/O latency, the processor had ten contexts, similar to a multithreaded processor. Execution would continue in a context to set up an I/O operation until it began, or until the context timed out and was switched to the next context.

RISC Formalised: IBM 801

The first system to formalise these principles was the IBM 801 project (1975), meant for a simple network switching controller and named after the building it was developed in. Like the VAX, it was not a microprocessor (ECL implementation), but strongly influenced microprocessor designs. The design goal was to speed up frequently used instructions while discarding complex instructions that slowed the overall implementation. Like the CDC 6600, memory access was limited to load/store operations (which were delayed, locking the register until complete, so most execution could continue). Branches were delayed, and instructions used a three operand format common to load-store processors. Execution was pipelined, allowing 1 instruction per cycle.

The 801 had thirty two 32 bit registers, but no floating point unit/registers, and no separate user/supervisor mode, since it was an experimental system - security was enforced by the compiler. It implemented Harvard architecture with separate data and instruction caches, and had flexible addressing modes.

IBM tried to commercialise the 801 design starting in 1977 (before RISC workstations first became popular) with the ROMP CPU (Research OPD (Office Products Division) Mini Processor), 1986, first chips early as 1981) used in the PC/RT workstation, but it wasn't successful. Originally designed for wordprocessor systems, changes to reduce cost included eliminating the caches and Harvard architecture (but adding 40 bit virtual memory), reducing registers to sixteen, variable length (16/32 bit) instructions (to increase instruction density), and floating point support via an adaptor to an NS32081 FPU (later, a 68881 or 68882 were available). This allowed a small CPU, only 45,000 transistors, but an average instruction took around 3 cycles.

The 801 itself morphed into an I/O processor for the IBM 3090 mainframes

This wasn't the only innovative design developed by IBM which never saw daylight. Slightly earlier (around 1971) the Advanced Computer System pioneered superscalar (seven issue) design, speculative execution, delayed condition codes, multithreading, imprecise traps and instruction streamed interrupts, and load/store buffers, plus compiler optimisation to support these features. It was expensive and incompatible with the System/360, so was not pursued, but many ideas did find its way into the expensive high end mainframes such as the IBM 360/91 (ACS-360 chief architect Gene Amdahl later founded Amdahl Corporation to make System/360 compatible systems).

RISC Refined: Berkeley RISC, Stanford MIPS

Some time after the 801, around 1981, projects at Berkeley (RISC I and II) and Stanford University (MIPS) further developed these concepts. The term RISC came from Berkeley's project, which was the basis for the fast Pyramid minicomputers and SPARC processor. Because of this, features are similar, including a windowed register file (10 global and 22 windowed, vs 8 and 24 for SPARC) with R0 wired to 0. Branches are delayed, and like ARM, all instructions have a bit to specify if condition codes should be set, and execute in a 3 stage pipeline. In addition, next and current PC are visible to the user, and last PC is visible in supervisor mode.

The Berkeley project also produced an instruction cache with some innovative features, such as instruction line prefetch that identified jump instructions, frequently used instructions compacted in memory and expanded upon cache load, multiple cache chips support, and bits to map out defective cache lines.

The Stanford MIPS project was the basis for the MIPS R2000, and like the case with Berkeley project, there are close similarities. MIPS stood for Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages, using the compiler to eliminate register conflicts (and generally hide any unsafe CPU behaviour from programmers). Like the R2000, the MIPS had no condition code register, and a special HI/LO multiply and divide register pair.

Unlike the R2000, the MIPS had only 16 registers, and two delay slots for LOAD/STORE and branch instructions. The PC and last three PC values were tracked for exception handling. In addition, instructions were 'packed' (like the Berkeley RISC), in that many instructions specified two operations that were dispatched in consecutive cycles (not decoded by the cache). In this way, it was a 2 operation VLIW, but executed sequentially. User assembly language was translated to 'packed' format by the assembler.

Being experimental, there was no support for floating point operations.

SOAR (Smalltalk On A RISC) modified the RISC II design to support Smalltalk.

Processor Classifications:

Arbitrarily assigned by me...

Complex/                                                         Simple/
      |                                                         14500B*
4-bit |                                                    *Am2901
      |                                   *4004
      |                                *4040
8-bit |                                     6800,650x         *1802
      |                       8051*  *  *8008   *    SC/MP
      |                              Z8    *         *    *F8
      |                F100-L*   8080/5  2650
      |                             *       *NOVA        *  *PIC16x
      |          MCP1600*   *Z-80         *6809    IMS6100
16-bit|          *Z-280           *PDP11             80C166*  *M17
      |                      *8086    *TMS9900
      |                 *Z8000          *65816
      |                *56002
      |            32016*   *68000 ACE HOBBIT  Clipper      R3000
32-bit|432      [3]  96002 *68020    *   *  *  *   *29000     *   *ARM
      | *         *VAX * 80486 68040 *PSC i960    *SPARC         *SH
      |          Z80000*    *  *    TRON48    PA-RISC
      |    PPro  Pent* [1]--{T9000}-*-------     *    *88100
      | *    * [2]--{860}-*--*-----            *     *88110
64-bit|Rekurs         POWER PowerPC   *        CDC6600     *R4000
      |                   620*    U-SPARC *     *R8000         *Alpha
      |                                R10000
[1] - About here, from left to right, the Swordfish and 68060.
[2] - In general, Pentium emulator 'clones' such as the 586, AMD K5, and Cyrix M1 fit about here.
[3] - TMS 320C30 and IBM S/360 go here, for different reasons.

Boy, it's getting awfully crowded there!

Okay, an explanation. Since this is only a 2-dimensional graph, and I want to get a lot more across than that allows, design features 'pull' a CPU along the RISC/CISC axis, and the complexity of the design (given the number of bits and other considerations) also tug it - thus the much of the POWER's RISC-ness is offset by its inherently complex (though effective) design. And it also depends on my mood that day - hey, it's ultimately subjective anyway.

Appendix B

Virtual Machine Architectures

One technique used by some programming languages to increase portability is to define a virtual machine on which to run. Every so often, a popular virtual machine is implemented as an actual processor. This describes some of those.

Because virtual machines have to be mapped on to the widest range of hardware possible, they have to make as few assumptions as they can (such as number of CPU registers in particular). This is the main reason why most virtual machines are stack based designs - almost all processors can implement one or two stacks fairly easilly.

The inverse isn't true. Some programming languages are based entirely on stack operations (Forth), but most are based on stack frames (C, Pascal, and their common ancestor ALGOL), or patternless memory access (FORTRAN, Smalltalk). Forth processors are effective because of the simplicity which comes from eliminating non-Forth features, but implementing a stack frame can be a real headache.

Forth: Stack oriented period

Forth was developed over several years around 1970, by Charles Moore, for controlling telescopes (it was intended to be a fourth generation language, but one computer he used (the IBM 1130) only accepted five character identifiers, so it became "Forth"). It's a fast, small, and extensible language, which makes it good for embedded systems, and since forth code is interpreted by a virtual machine, it's also extremely portable.

The Forth virtual machine contains two stacks. The first is the data stack, which consists of 16 bit entries (double entries can hold 32 bit values). The second is the return stack, used to hold PC values during subroutines.

The Forth equivalent to an instruction is a 'word', and can either be a predefined operation, or a programmer defined word made up of a sequence of executable words (the Forth version of subroutines, similar to Smalltalk). Forth also allows a word to be deleted with the "forget" word, normally only used for interactive Forth development (the language INTERCAL also includes a FORGET statement, but it is used for more evil purposes). Operations typically pull operands from the stack and push the results back onto it, which reduces instruction size since operands don't need to be specified. A subroutine is called by pushing the operands and executing the subroutine word, which leaves the results in the stack.

Operations can be either 16 bit or 32 bit, but there are two cases where types can be mixed - mixed multiplication will multiply two 16 bit numbers and leave a 32 bit result on the stack, while mixed division will divide a 16 bit (top of stack) number into a 32 bit number, producing a 16 bit quotient and 16 bit remainder (note that these two operations are directly supported by the PDP-11 architecture). There are I/O instructions as well.

The Forth two-stack machine has been implemented in the M17 CPU, among many others. The Transputer is stack oriented to a lesser extent (single evaluation stack only), and provides direct memory access abilities (for stack frames and other structures) without penalty.

As for Forth, although it has dedicated advocates, it's explicit stack orientation and its lack of modularity limit the scale of Forth programs. One of the largest Forth efforts was an integrated operating system called Valdocs (Valuable Document System) on the Epson QX-10. The software remained buggy couldn't be updated quickly enough for the machine to remain competitive - although you could just as easilly blame the computer's Z-80 processor (since at the time the 8088 based IBM PC and 68000 based Apple Macintosh were being introduced) and difficulty in finding experienced Forth programmers. Whatever the cause, this soured the acceptance of Forth for large scale projects.

UCSD p-System: Portable Pascal

A portable version of Pascal was developed at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) which defined a virtual machine (the p-Machine) which would execute compiled Pascal code (p-Code). The p-Machine could be ported to any other computer, ensuring portability of compiled UCSD Pascal programs. The p-Machine eventually included multitasking support.

Pascal, like Algol and C, is a stack frame oriented language, and so the p-Machine is a stack oriented machine. Memory is arranged from the top down as follows: p-System operating system code, system stack (growing down), relocatable p-Code pool, system heap (growing up), a series of process stacks as needed (growing down), a series of global data segments, and the p-Machine interpreter. The code pool contains compiled procedure segments in a linked list. Segments can be swapped into and out of memory, and relocated - if the stack needs more space to grow, the highest code segment can be relocated below the code pool. Similarly if the heap needs more space, code segments can be relocated upwards, and if both stack and heap need memory, code segments can be swapped out of memory altogether.

The UCSD p_System used a 64K memory map (standard for microcomputers of the time), but could also keep code in a separate 64K bank, freeing up data memory. The p-System also defined terminal I/O, a simple file system, serial and printer I/O, and allowed other device drivers to be added like any other operating system. It included an interactive program development system (all written in Pascal).

Western Digital implemented the p-Machine in the WD9000 Pascal Microengine (1980), based on the WD MCP-1600 programmable processor.

Java: Once was Oak

Oak was an object oriented language similar to C or C++, which was created by a subsidiary of Sun computers, and later renamed Java. Meant for complex embedded systems, it's also based on a stack-oriented Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with variable length (one or more bytes, length identified by the operand) instructions (about 250).

The JVM contains a stack stack used for parameters and instruction operands as in Forth, and a 'vars' register which points to the memory segment containing any number of local variables (like the workspace register in the Transputers).

Data typing is strongly enforced - while in Forth pushing two integers on the stack and treating them as a double is allowed, the JVM prohibits this. Object oriented support is also defined in the JVM, but not the architectual mechanisms, so implementation can vary. Objects are dynamically linked and can be swapped in or out (similar to the UCSD p-Machine, but the p-Machine segments are not grouped like objects and methods, and must be part of the program being executed, while JVM objects can be linked from external sources at run time). The other main difference between the JVM and the p-Machine is that the JVM memory segments (heap (data) and method area (code)) are not tied to a memory map, but may be allocated any way the operating or run-time system supports. Apart from that, the concept and implementation are quite similar (including multitasking support).

The Java language relies heavily on garbage collection, which is accomplished using a background thread and is not part of the JVM itself.

One other thing about the Java Virtual Machine is that some versions need to run code of unknown reliability which has been transferred over networks, and so includes security features to prevent a program from unauthorised access to the computer that it's running on.

Sun intends to produced Java processors (starting with the picoJava CPU) to execute Java bytecode directly, faster than a virtual machine or recompiled code.

Appendix C

CPU Features:

Most of the terms in this list are defined somewhere within, and others are available in the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, but here's clarification for a few terms:

A register that is used as the implicit source and destination of an operation (the register doesn't have to be specified separately). The PDP-8 has the best example in this document.
RISC processors use a load/store architecture instead - to add memory to a register, it must be loaded into an intermediate register first.
Asynchronous Design
A design which does not synchronize individual circuits using a clock signal, as synchronous designs do. Some other method (such as a "dummy circuit" which does nothing but consume the same amount of time as the real circuit) is used to generate a signal when the result is ready/valid, and the valid signals can be used to start the next operation.
There is an asynchronous version of the ARM architecture, and Sun is researching an asynchronous Transport-triggered architecture with a project called FleetZero.
Branch Prediction
The general method of keeping track of which path was taken by a particular branch instruction, and following that path the next time the same instruction is encountered. Generally a history table is used to indicate how often a branch at a given address is taken or not taken.
Branch Target Cache
The practice of saving one or more instructions which are executed immediately after a branch instruction, so that the next time the branch is encountered, the instructions have already been loaded.
You should know this term already. But if you don't, it refers to a small amount of fast memory which holds recently accessed data or instructions so that if they are used by the programs again, the cache can supply them transparently faster than main memory.
Cache memory is typically organised into lines (several bytes are loaded at once, on the assumption that nearby memory will beused next). The lines are organised into sets, each set is mapped to a separate group of memory addresses, and there are usually between two and sixty-four lines per set (fewer lines per set are simpler, but access to more addresses than cache lines in the same set can cause data in the cache to be discarded before it can be used).
Smaller caches are faster, so often a small level 1 cache is used, with a larger but slower level 2 cache supporting it. Level 3 caches can even be used in some cases.
Some cache controllers monitor the memory bus to detect when a cached memory value has been modified by another CPU, or a peripheral.
Digital Signal Processor, a CPU designed mainly for performing simple, repetitious operations on a stream or buffer of data - for example, decoding digital audio data from a CD. Generally meant for embedded applications, leaving out features of general purpose CPUs which aren't needed in a DSP application. There is usually little or no interrupt support, or memory management support.
Electrically Erasable Programmable ROM.
The order in which a multi-byte binary number is stored in byte-addressable memory. "Little-endian" means the least significant byte (the "little end") is stored in the first (lowest) address, "big-endian" means the most significant byte ("big end") has the first position in memory.
A potential source of code and communications incompatibility, but with no significant advantages to either, making the decision arbitrary (except for compatibility requirements). The term comes from an equally arbitrary disagreement in Liliputian society (from Jonathan Swift's book "Gulliver's Travels") over which end to break boiled eggs (the big or little end), a distinction which caused civil wars. Swift was satirizing differences in the treatment of Catholics in his own time - fortunately there's been no documented case of CPU designers coming to blows over CPU endian-ness, despite the heated discussions that once took place (but which later became unfashionable after
network endian order was standardised in TCP/IP).
Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing
The HP/Intel term for a form of VLIW with Variable Length Instruction Groupings which uses fields in the instruction stream or instructions themselves to group (specify instruction dependencies), rather than using a fixed length instruction word. Used in the TI 320C6x and expected in the HP/Intel Merced/IA/64.
Two problems are usually identified with VLIW processors (like the Phillips TriMedia). One is that if the instruction word can't be filled, the rest of the entries need to be filled with NOP instructions, which waste space. The other is that it prevents future versions which may be able to execute more instructions in parallel, or lower cost versions which execute fewer. EPIC solves this, but requires a small semantic change that instructions within a group must be independent - that is, act the same whether they were executed in order or parallel. By contrast, in the MultiFlow TRACE systems a pair of instructions such as "MOVE A, B" and "MOVE B, A" could be in the same word because they were guaranteed to execute in parallel, with the result that values in A and B would be swapped.
Erasable Programmable ROM (erased by exposing the EPROM to ultraviolet light).
Harvard Architecture
Strictly speaking, refers to a CPU with separate program and data spaces, (specifically the PIC embedded processors), but it's often generally used to refer to separate program and data busses (and usually caches too) for improved speed, though the address spaces are actually shared. Originally Harvard architecture computers were programmed using plug boards or something similar, and data was in a writable storage area. The von Neumann architecture introduced the idea of a stored program in the same writable memory that data was stored in.
Indirection Bit
Some designs used one address bit as an indirection bit, meaning that the value in memory is the address of the actual value. Other designs used a separate addressing mode for indirect addressing.
An actual programming language designed to be as evil as possible.
Earlier CPUs were designed to execute instructions with the circuitry directly decoding and executing program instructions. Microcode was a way of simplifying CPU design by allowing simpler hardware which executes simple microinstructions to interpret more complex machine instructions, first used commercially in the mid and low range IBM System/360
Microcode is often slower and increases CPU size (compare size of microcoded Motorola 68000 (68,000) with hardwired Zilog Z-8000 (17,500) - and the fact that the Z-8000) was both late and buggy).
Implementations generally use either 'horizontal' or 'vertical' microcode, which differ mainly in number of bits. Microinstructions include a condition code and jump address (jump if condition is true, next instruction if false), and the operation to be performed. In horizontal microcode, each operation bit triggers an individual control line (simple CPU controller but large microcode storage), in vertical microcode, the operation field is decoded to produce the control signals (smaller microcode but more complex controller). Some CPUs used a combination.
The ability to share CPU resources among multiple threads. 'Vertical' multithreading allows a CPU to switch execution between threads without needing to save thread state (generally using duplicated registers, and usually used to continue execution with another thread when one thread hits a delay due to a cache miss and must wait). 'Horizontal' multithreading allows threads to share functional units without halting the execution of a thread (an idle functional unit can be assigned to any thread that needs it).
Network order
Big-endian, used in TCP/IP standards.
Out Of Order Execution
A superscalar CPU may issue instructions in an order different than that in the program if state conflicts can be resolved (with renaming for example). For example:
1: add r1,r2->r8
2: sub r8,r3->r3
3: add r4,r5->r8
4: sub r8,r6->r6
Instructions 1 and 3 can be executed in parallel if r8 is renamed, and instructions 2 and 4 can then be executed in parallel. Instruction 3 is executed before 2, out of the order which they appear in the program.
Predicated instructions
Instructions which are executed only if conditions are true, usually bits in a condition code register. This eliminates some branches, and in a superscalar machine can allow both branches in certain conditions to be executed in parallel, and the incorrect one discarded with no branch penalty. Used in the ARM and TMS320C6x, in HP some PA-RISC instructions, and the upcoming HP/Intel IA-64.
Programmable ROM (not erasable).
If you don't know what Random Access Memory is, why are you reading this in the first place?
Register Renaming
A number of extra registers can be assigned to hold the data that would normally be written to the destination register (in other words, the extra register is renamed as far as that particular instruction is concerned). One use for this is for speculative execution of branches - if the branch is eventually taken, then data in the rename register can be written to the real register, if not then the data is discarded. Another use is for out of order execution, renamed registers can produce an 'image' of the processor state which an instruction expects, while the actual processor state has already been modified by another instruction (known as write conflicts).
The circutry required to keep track of renamed registers can be complex.
Resource Renaming
A more general form of register renaming where resources other than registers are renamed.
Read Only RAM. It's really spelled ROR. Engineers know this, but don't tell anybody so that they can laugh at everyone who says 'ROM'. Really, this is the truth.
Saturation Arithmetic
When arithmetic operations produce values too large or too small for registers, the largest or smallest value that can be represented is substituted instead.
Properly, a section of memory of almost any size and at any address, accessed through an identifier tag which includes protection bits, particularly useful for object oriented programming. A good idea which was missed by a painful margin with the Intel 8086.
Speculative Execution
In a pipelined processor, branch instructions in the execute stage affect the instruction fetch stage - there are two possible paths of execution, and the correct one isn't known until the conditional branch executes. If the CPU waits until the conditional branch executes, the stages between fetch and execute become empty, leading to a delay before execution can resume after a branch (the time taken for new instructions to fill the pipeline again). The alternative is to choose an execution path, and if that is the correct one, there is no branch delay. But if it's the wrong one, any results from the speculative execution have to either be discarded or undone.
Stack Frame
A segment of a stack which holds parameters, local variables, previous stack frame pointer and return address, created when calling a procedure, function (procedure which returns a value), or method (function or procedure which can access private data in an object) in most high level languages.
Refers to a processor which executes more than one instruction simultaneously, but more properly refers to the issuing of instructions (the CDC 6600 issues one, but executes many simultaneously).
Synchronous Design
A design which ensures that when two circuits take different amounts of time to perform a function, further operations will wait until a voltage signal (which switches between on and off at a specified frequency) changes. The changing signal is called the circuit's clock, and changes at the speed of the slowest circuit, in order to keep the faster circuits synchronized with it.
Designs which don't use a clock signal are called
A thread is a stream or path of execution where the state is entirely stored in the CPU, while a process includes extra state information - mainly operating system support to protect processes from unexpected and unwanted interferences (either from bugs or intentional attack). Threads are sometimes called lightweight processes.
Transport Triggered Architecture
Also called a Transfer Triggered Architecture, or Move Machine, a TTA is a design where operations are triggered by moving data to the functional units which operate on it, instead or moving data in response to the CPU operations (an Operation Triggered Architechture, or OPA).
For example, a TTA would have one unit for add, one for subtract, one for load, and so on. A number would be loaded by moving the address to the load unit, triggering it to load. The result could be transferred to the add unit, and another number from a register or another unit could be transferred, triggering the unit to add them together.
TTAs are primarily experimental, with researchers into using the very regular design properties for automated custom CPU designs. The
TI MSP430 implements the multiplier as an on-chip peripheral, and Sun is researching high-speed asynchronous designs.
Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW)
An instruction which includes more than one operation, intended to be executed concurrently - either a fixed number of operations per instruction, or a variable number (Variable Length Instruction Grouping or Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC)).
Virtual Machine
A software emulation of a CPU, usually including an OS environment.

Appendix D

Graphics matrix operations:

3-D points are generally stored in four element vectors, defined as: [X, Y, Z, W] where X, Y, and Z are the point 3-D coordinates, and W is the 'weight', and is used to normalise the result after an operation, multiplying each element by 1/W so that W ends equal to 1.

Points can be moved around by matric multiplication with 4X4 transformation matrices. Multiplying a vector with a matric produces a new vector, which is the transformed point. Standard transformation matrices are:

Identity (does not transform point):
[ 1   0   0   0 ]
[ 0   1   0   0 ]
[ 0   0   1   0 ]
[ 0   0   0   1 ]

Translate (move along X, Y, Z axes):
[ 1   0   0   0 ]
[ 0   1   0   0 ]
[ 0   0   1   0 ]
[ Tx  Ty  Tz  1 ]

Scale (translate to larger or smaller coordinates):
[ Sx  0   0   0 ]
[ 0   Sy  0   0 ]
[ 0   0   Sz  0 ]
[ 0   0   0   1 ]

Rotate (around X, Y, or Z axis by angle U):
Axis X:            Axis Y:            Axix Z:
[ 1   0   0   0 ]  [cosU 0 -sinU 0 ]  [cosU sinU 0   0 ]
[ 0 cosU sinU 0 ]  [ 0   1   0   0 ] [-sinU cosU 0   0 ]
[ 0-sinU cosU 0 ]  [sinU 0  cosU 0 ]  [ 0   0    1   0 ]
[ 0   0   0   1 ]  [ 0   0   0   1 ]  [ 0   0    0   1 ]

Perspective (d is the distance of "eye" behind "screen"):
[ 1   0   0   0 ]
[ 0   1   0   0 ]
[ 0   0   1   0 ]
[ 0   0  1/d  0 ]

Transformation matrices can be combined by multiplying them together, so a single matrix can be use to shift, rotate, and scale a point in a single operation. Other 3-D operations using vectors are also frequently used, such as to determine intersection points or the reflection of light rays.

Appendix E

Appearing in IEEE Computer 1972:




   Intel  has  introduced  an  integrated  CPU  complete with
a 4-bit parallel adder, sixteen 4-bit registers, an accumula-
tor  and  a  push-down  stack  on  one  chip.  It's  one of a
family  of  four  new  ICs  which  comprise  the  MCS-4 micro
computer  system--the  first  system  to  bring the power and
flexibility  of  a  dedicated general-purpose computer at low
cost in as few as two dual in-line packages.
    MSC-4   systems   provide  complete  computing  and  con-
trol  functions  for  test  systems,  data terminals, billing
machines,   measuring   systems,   numeric   control  systems
and process control systems.
    The  heart  of  any  MSC-4  system  is  a  Type 4004 CPU,
which includes  a  set  of  45  instructions.  Adding  one or
more   Type   4001   ROMs   for   program  storage  and  data
tables   gives  a  fully  functioning  micro-programmed  com-
puter.   Add   Type  4002  RAMs  for  read-write  memory  and
Type 4003 registers to expand the output ports.
   Using  no  circuitry  other  than  ICs from this family of
four,  a  system  with  4096  8-bit  bytes of ROM storage and
5120   bits   of  RAM  storage  can  be  created.  For  rapid
turn-around  or  only  a  few  systems,  Intel's erasable and
re-programmable   ROM,   Type   1701,   may   be  substituted
for the Type 4001 mask-programmed ROM.
    MCS-4   systems  interface  easily  with  switches,  key-
boards,  displays,  teletypewriters,  printers,  readers, A-D
converters   and  other  popular  peripherals.   For  further
information,  circle the reader service card 87 or call Intel
at (408) 246-7501.
              Circle 87 on Reader Service Card


There was also an ad for the 4004 in Electronic News, Nov. 1971.

Appearing in IEEE Computer 1975:

The age of the affordable computer.

   MITS  announces  the  dawning  of  the  Altair 8800
Computer.  A  lot  of  brain  power  at a price that's
bound  to  create  love  and  understanding.   To  say
nothing of excitement.
   The  Altair  8800  uses a parallel, 8-bit processor
(the  Intel  8080)  with  a 16-bit address.  It has 78
basic  machine  instructions  with  variances over 200
instructions.  It can directly address up to 65K bytes
of  memory  and  it  is fast.   Very fast.  The Altair
8800's basic instruction cycle time is 2 microseconds.
   Combine   this   speed  and  power  with   Altair's
flexibility (it can directly address 256 input and 256
output  devices)   and  you  have  a  computer  that's
competitive with most mini's on the market today.
    The  basic  Altair  8800  Computer   includes  the
CPU,  front  panel  control board,  front panel lights
and  switches,  power  supply  (enough  to  power  any
additional  cards),  and  expander  board  (with  room
for  3 extra cards)  all enclosed in a handsome,  alum-
inum  case.  Up  to  16  cards can be added inside the
main case.
   Options  now  available  include  4K  dynamic  mem-
ory  cards,  1K  static  memory  cards,  parallel  I/O
cards,  three serial I/O cards  (TTL,  R232,  and TTY),
octal  to  binary  computer  terminal,   32  character
alpha-numeric   display   terminal,   ASCII  keyboard,
audio  tape  interface,  4 channel storage scope  (for
testing), and expander cards.
   Options  under  development  include  a floppy disc
system,  CRT  terminal,  line printer,  floating point
processor,   vectored  interrupt   (8  levels),   PROM
programmer,   direct   memory  access  controller  and
much more.
Altair 8800 Computer: $439.00* kit
                      $621.00* assembled

  prices and specifications subject to change without notice

For more information or our free Altair Systems
Catalogue phone or write: MITS, 6328 Linn N.E.,
Albuquerque, N.M. 87108, 505/265-7553.

 *In quantities of 1 (one). Substantial OEM discounts available.
[Picture of computer, with switches and lights]

Appendix F

Bubble Memories:

Certain materials (ie. gadolinium gallium garnet) are magnetizable easily in only one direction. A film of these materials can be created so that it's magnetizable in an up-down direction. The magnetic fields tend to stick together, so you get a pattern that is kind of like air bubbles in water squished between glass, half with the north pole facing up, half with the south, floating inside the film. When a vertical magnetic field is imposed on this, the areas in opposite alignment to this field shrink to circles, or 'bubbles'.

A bubble can be formed by reversing the field in a small spot, and can be destroyed by increasing the field.

The bubbles are anchored to tiny magnetic posts arranged in lines. Usually a 'V V V' shape or a 'T T T' shape. Another magnetic field is applied across the chip, which is picked up by the posts and holds the bubble. The field is rotated 90 degrees, and the bubble is attracted to another part of the post. After four rotations, a bubble gets moved to the next post:

     o                             o              o
     \/   \/       \/   \/      \/   \/      \/   \/

    o_|_   _|_      _|_   _|_     _|_o  _|_      _|_ o _|_     _|_  o_|_
         |           o  |             |              |             |

I hope that diagram makes sense.

These bubbles move in long thin loops arranged in rows. At the end of the row, the bits to be read are copied to another loop that shift to read and write units that create or destroy bubbles. Access time for a particular bit depends on where it is, so it's not consistent.

One of the limitations with bubble memories, why they were superceded, was the slow access. A large bubble memory would require large loops, so accessing a bit could require cycling through a huge number of other bits first. The speed of propagation is limited by how fast magnetic fields could be switched back and forth, a limit of about 1 MHz. On the plus side, they are non-volatile, but eeproms, flash memories, and ferroelectric technologies are also non-volatile and and are faster.

Ferroelectric and Ferromagnetic (core) Memories:

Ferroelectric materials are analogous to ferromagnetic materials, though neither actually need to contain any iron. Ferromagnetic materials, used in core memories, will retain a magnetic field that's been applied to it.

Core memories consist of ferromagnetic rings strung together on tiny wires. The wires will induce magnetic fields in the rings, which can later be read back. Usually reading this memory will erase it, so once a bit is read, it is written back. This type of memory is expensive because it has to be constructed physically, but is very fast and non-volatile. Unfortunately it's also large and heavy, compared to other technologies.

Ferroelectric materials retain an electric field rather than a magnetic field. like core memories, they are fast and non-volatile, but bits have to be rewritten when read. Unlike core memories, ferroelectric memories can be fabricated on silicon chips.

Legend reports that a Swedish jet prototype (the Viggen I believe) once crashed, but the magnetic tape flight recorders weren't fast enough to record the cause of the crash. The flight computers used core memory, though, so they were hooked up and read out, and the still contained the data microseconds before the crash occurred, allowing the cause to be determined. A similar trick was used when investigating the crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

On a similar note, the IBM 7740 communication controller was shipped with diagnostics code in its core memory, so it could be checked out on arrival without a host machine being operational. Faulty military equipment using core memory often had to be escorted by military security personnel because the data within it could not be erased until it was repaired.

Interestingly enough, newer flight recorders have replaced magnetic tape with flash memories, which is a newer and more reliable form of EEPROM (Electronically Erasable Programmable ROM). This actually has nothing to do with either ferromagnetic or ferroelectric memories, though. Oh well, this is an appendix. Who reads appendices anyway?

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