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Introduction to Computer Organization and Computer Evolution Essay

In describing computers, a distinction is often made between computer architecture and computer organization. Although it is difficult to give precise definitions for these terms, a consensus exists about the general areas covered by each. Computer Architecture refers to those attributes of a system visible to a programmer or, put another way, those attributes that have a direct impact on the logical execution of a program. Examples of architectural attributes include the instruction set, the number of bits used to represent various data types (e.g., numbers, characters), I/O mechanisms, and techniques for addressing memory. Computer Organization refers to the operational units and their interconnections that realize the architectural specifications. Examples of organizational attributes include those hardware details transparent to the programmer, such as control signals; interfaces between the computer and peripherals; and the memory technology used.

As an example, it is an architectural design issue whether a computer will have a multiply instruction. It is an organizational issue whether that instruction will implemented by a special multiply unit or by a mechanism that makes repeated use of the add unit of the system. The organizational decision may be based on the anticipated frequency of use of the multiply instruction, the relative speed of the two approaches, and the cost and physical size of a special multiply unit. Historically, and still today, the distinction between architecture and organization has been an important one. Many computer manufacturers offer a family of computer models, all with the same architecture but with differences in organization.

Consequently, the different models in the family have different price and performance characteristics. Furthermore, a particular architecture may span many years and encompass a number of different computer models, its organization changing with changing technology. A prominent example of both these phenomena is the IBM System/370 architecture. This architecture was first introduced in 1970 and included a number of models.

The customer with modest requirements could buy a cheaper, slower model and, if demand increased, later upgrade to a more expensive, faster model without having to abandon software that had already been developed. These newer models retained the same architecture so that the customer’s software investment was protected. Remarkably, the System/370 architecture, with a few enhancements, has survived to this day as the architecture of IBM’s mainframe product line.

II.Structure and Function

A computer is a complex system; contemporary computers contain millions of elementary electronic components. The key is to recognize the hierarchical nature of most complex systems, including the computer. A hierarchical system is a set of interrelated subsystems, each of the latter, in turn, hierarchical in structure until we reach some lowest level of elementary subsystem. The hierarchical nature of complex systems is essential to both their design and their description. The designer need only deal with a particular level of the system at a time. At each level, the system consists of a set of components and their interrelationships.

The behaviour at each level depends only on a simplified, abstracted characterization of the system at the next lower level. At each level, the designer is concerned with structure and function: •Structure: The way in which the components are interrelated •Function: The operation of each individual component as part of the structure The computer system will be described from the top down. We begin with the major components of a computer, describing their structure and function, and proceed to successively lower layers of the hierarchy.


Both the structure and functioning of a computer are, in essence, simple. Figure 1.1 depicts the basic functions that a computer can perform. In general terms, there are only four: •Data processing: The computer, of course, must be able to process data. The data may take a wide variety of forms, and the range of processing requirements is broad. However, we shall see that there are only a few fundamental methods or types of data processing. •Data storage: It is also essential that a computer store data. Even if the computer is processing on the fly (i.e., data come in and get processed, and the results go out immediately), the computer must temporarily store at least those pieces of data that are being worked on at any given moment. Thus, there is at least a short-term data storage function. Equally important, the computer performs a long-term data storage function. Files of data are stored on the computer for subsequent retrieval and update.

•Data movement: The computer must be able to move data between itself and the outside world. The computer’s operating environment consists of devices that serve as either sources or destinations of data. When data are received from or delivered to a device that is directly connected to the computer, the process is known as input-output (I/O), and the device is referred to as a peripheral. When data are moved over longer distances, to or from a remote device, the process is known as data communications. •Control: Finally there must be control of these three functions. Ultimately, this control is exercised by the individual(s) who provides the computer with instructions. Within the computer, a control unit manages the computer’s resources and orchestrates the performance of its functional parts in response to those instructions.


At this general level of discussion, the number of possible operations that can be performed is few. Figure 1.2 depicts the four possible types of operations. The computer can function as a data movement device (Figure 1.2a), simply transferring data from one peripheral or communications line to another. It can also function as a data storage device (Figure 1.2b), with data transferred from the external environment to computer storage (read) and vice versa (write). The final two diagrams show operations involving data processing, on data either in storage (Figure 1.2c) or en route between storage and the external environment


Figure 1.3 is the simplest possible depiction of a computer. The computer interacts in some fashion with its external environment. In general, all of its linkages to the external environment can be classified as peripheral devices or communication lines. There are four main structural components (Figure 1.4): •Central Processing Unit (CPU): Controls the operation of the computer and performs its data processing functions; often simple referred to as processor

•Main memory: Stores data

•I/O: Moves data between the computer and its external environment •System interconnection: Some mechanism that provides for communication among CPU, main memory, and I/O



There may be one or more of each of the aforementioned components. Traditionally, there has been just a single CPU. In recent years, there has been increasing use of multiple processors in a single computer. The most interesting and in some ways the most complex component is the CPU; its structure is depicted in Figure 1.5. Its major structural components are: •Control unit: Controls the operation of the CPU and hence the computer •Arithmetic and logic unit (ALU): Performs the computer’s data processing functions •Registers: Provides storage internal to the CPU

•CPU interconnection: Some mechanism that provides for communication among the control unit, ALU, and registers


Finally, there are several approaches to the implementation of the control unit; one common approach is a microprogrammed implementation. In essence, a microprogrammed control unit operates by executing microinstructions that define the functionality of the control unit. The structure of the control unit can be depicted as in Figure 1.6.


III.Importance of Computer Organization and Architecture

The computer lies at the heart of computing. Without it most of the computing disciplines today would be a branch of the theoretical mathematics. To be a professional in any field of computing today, one should not regard the computer as just a black box that executes programs by magic. All students of computing should acquire some understanding and appreciation of a computer system’s functional components, their characteristics, their performance, and their interactions. There are practical implications as well. Students need to understand computer architecture in order to structure a program so that it runs more efficiently on a real machine. In selecting a system to use, they should be able to understand the tradeoff among various components, such as CPU clock speed vs. memory size. [Reported by the Joint Task Force on Computing Curricula of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Computer Society and ACM (Association for Computing Machinery)].

IV.Computer Evolution

A brief history of computers is interesting and also serves the purpose of providing an overview of computer structure and function. A consideration of the need for balanced utilization of computer resources provides a context that is useful.

The First Generation: Vacuum Tubes

ENIAC: The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), designed by and constructed under the supervision of John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania, was the world’s first general-purpose electronic digital computer. The project was a response to U.S. wartime needs during World War II. The Army’s Ballistics Research Laboratory (BRL), an agency responsible for developing range and trajectory tables for new weapons, was having difficulty supplying these tables accurately and within a reasonable time frame. Mauchly, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and Eckert, one of his graduate students, proposed to build a general-purpose computer using vacuum tubes for the BRL’s application. In 1943, the Army accepted this proposal, and work began on the ENIAC.

The resulting machine was enormous, weighing 30 tons, occupying 1500 squre feet of floor space and containing more than 18,000 vacuum tubes. When operating, it consumed 140 kilowatts of power. It was also substantially faster than any electromechanical computer, being capable of 5000 additions per second. The ENIAC was a decimal rather than a binary machine. That is, numbers were represented in decimal form and arithmetic was performed in the decimal system. Its memory consisted of 20 “accumulators,” each capable of holding a 10-digit decimal number. A ring of 10 vacuum tubes represented each digit. At any time, only one vacuum tube was in the ON state, representing one of the 10 digits. The major drawback of the ENIAC was that it had to be programmed manually by setting switches and plugging and unplugging cables. The ENIAC was completed in 1946, too late to be used in the war effort. Instead, its first task was to perform a series of complex calculations that were used to help determine the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb.

The use of the ENIAC for a purpose other than that for which it was built demonstrated its general-purpose nature. The ENIAC continued to operate under BRL management until 1955, when it was disassembled. The von Neumann Machine: The task of entering and altering programs for the ENIAC was extremely tedious. The programming process could be facilitated if the program could be represented in a form suitable for storing in memory alongside the data. Then, a computer could get its instructions by reading them from memory, and a program could be set or altered by setting the values of a portion of memory. This idea, known as the stored-program concept, is usually attributed to the ENIAC designers, most notably the mathematician John von Neumann, who was a consultant on the ENIAC project.

Alan Turing developed the idea at about the same time. The first publication of the idea was in a 1945 proposal by von Neumann for a new computer, the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer). In 1946, von Neumann and his colleagues began the design of a new stored-program computer, referred to as the IAS computer, at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The IAS computer, although not completed until 1952, is the prototype of all subsequent general-purpose computers. Figure 1.7 shows the general structure of the IAS computer. It consists of: •A main memory, which stores both data and instructions

•An arithmetic and logic unit (ALU) capable of operating on binary data •A control unit, which interprets the instructions in memory and causes them to be executed •Input and output (I/O) equipment operated by the control unit

Commercial Computers

The 1950s saw the birth of the computer industry with two companies, Sperry and IBM, dominating the marketplace. UNIVAC I: In 1947, Eckert and Mauchly formed the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation to manufacture computers commercially. Their first successful machine was the UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer), which was commissioned by the Bureau of the Census for the 1950 calculations. The Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation became part of the UNIVAC division of Sperry-Rand Corporation, which went on to build a series of successor machines. The UNIVAC I was the first successful commercial computer. It was intended, as the name implies, for both scientific and commercial applications. The first paper describing the system listed matrix algebraic computations, statistical problems, premium billings for a life insurance company, and logistical problems as a sample of the tasks it could perform.

UNIVAC II: The UNIVAC II which had greater memory capacity and higher performance than the UNIVAC I, was delivered in the late 1950s and illustrates several trends that have remained characteristic of the computer industry. First, advances in technology allow companies to continue to build larger, more powerful computers. Second, each company tries to make its new machines upward compatible with the older machines. This means that the programs written for the older machines can be executed on the new machine. This strategy is adopted in the hopes of retaining the customer base; that is, when a customer decides to buy a newer machine, he or she is likely to get it from the same company to avoid losing the investment in programs.

The UNIVAC division also began development of the 1100 series of computers, which was to be its major source of revenue. This series illustrates a distinction that existed at one time. In 1955, IBM, which stands for International Business Machines, introduced the companion 702 product, which had a number of hardware features that suited it to business applications. These were the first of a long series of 700/7000 computers that established IBM as the overwhelmingly dominant computer manufacturer.

The Second Generation: Transistors

The first major change in the electronic computer came with the replacement of the vacuum tube by the transistor. The transistor is smaller, cheaper, and dissipates less heat than a vacuum tube but can be used in the same way as a vacuum tube to construct computers. Unlike the vacuum tube, which requires wires, metal plates, a glass capsule, and a vacuum, the transistor is a solid-state device, made from silicon. The transistor was invented at Bell Labs in 1947 and by the 1950s had launched an electronic revolution. The National Cash Registers (NCR) and, more successfully, Radio Corporation of America (RCA) were the front-runners with some small transistor machines.

IBM followed shortly with the 7000 series. The second generation is noteworthy also for the appearance of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC was founded in 1957 and, in that year, delivered its first computer, the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor). This computer and this company began the minicomputer phenomenon that would become so prominent in the third generation. The IBM 7094: From the introduction of the 700 series in 1952 to the introduction of the last member of the 7000 series in 1964, this IBM product line underwent an evolution that is typical of computer products. Successive members of the product line show increased performance, increased capacity, and/or lower cost.

Table 1.1 illustrates this trend.

The Third Generation: Integrated Circuit

A single, self-contained transistor is called a discrete component. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, electronic equipment was composed largely of discrete components–transistors, resistors, capacitors, and so on. Discrete components were manufactured separately, packaged in their own containers, and soldered or wired together onto masonite-like circuit boards, which were then installed in computers, oscilloscopes, and other electronic equipment. Early second-generation computer contained about 10,000 transistors. This figure grew to the hundreds of thousands, making the manufacture of newer, more powerful machines increasingly difficult. In 1958 came the achievement that revolutionized electronics and started the era of microelectronics: the invention of the integrated circuit.

Microelectronics: Microelectronics means, literally, “small electronics.” Since the beginnings of digital electronics and the computer industry, there has been a persistent and consistent trend toward the reduction in size of digital electronic circuits. The basic elements of a digital computer, as we know, must perform storage, movement, processing, and control functions. Only two fundamental types of components are required: gates and memory cells.

A gate is a device that implements a simple Boolean or logical function. Such devices are called gates because they control data flow in much the same way that canal gates do. The memory cell is a device that can store one bit of data; that is, the device can be in one of two stable states at any time. By interconnecting large numbers of these fundamental devices, we can construct a computer. We can relate this to our four basic functions as follows:

•Data storage: Provided by memory cells.

•Data processing: Provided by gates.
•Data movement: The paths between components are used to move data from memory to memory and from memory through gates to memory.

•Control: The paths between components can carry control signals. When the control signal is ON, the gate performs its function on the data inputs and produces a data output. Similarly, the memory cell will store the bit that is on its input lead when the WRITE control signal is ON and will place the bit that is in the cell on its output lead when the READ control signal is ON. Thus, a computer consists of gates, memory cells, and interconnections among these elements. The integrated circuit exploits the fact that such components as transistors, resistors, and conductors can be fabricated from a semiconductor such as silicon. It is merely an extension of the solid-state art to fabricate an entire circuit in a tiny piece of silicon rather than assemble discrete components made from separate pieces of silicon into the same circuit.

Many transistors can be produced at the same time on a single wafer of silicon. Equally important, these transistors can be connected with a process of metallization to form circuits. Figure 1.8 depicts the key concepts in an integrated circuit. A thin wafer of silicon is divided into a matrix of small areas, each a few millimetres square. The identical circuit pattern is fabricated in each area, and the wafer is broken up into chips. Each chip consists of many gates and/or memory cells plus a number of input and output attachment points. This chip is then packaged in housing that protects it and provides pins for attachment to devices beyond the chip. A number of these packages can then be interconnected on a printed circuit board to produce larger and more complex circuits.

As time went on, it became possible to pack more and more components on the same chip. This growth in density is illustrated in Figure 1.9; it is one of the most remarkable technological trends ever recorded. This figure reflects the famous Moore’s law, which was propounded by Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel, in 1965. Moore observed that the number of transistors that could be put on a single chip was doubling every year and correctly predicted that this pace would continue into the near future.

The consequences of Moore’s law are profound:

1.The cost of a chip has remained virtually unchanged during this period of rapid growth in density. This means that the cost of computer logic and memory circuitry has fallen at a dramatic rate. 2.Because logic and memory elements are placed closer together on more densely packed chips, the electrical path length is shortened, increasing operating speed. 3.The computer becomes smaller, making it more convenient to place in a variety of environments. 4.There is a reduction in power and cooling requirements.

5.The interconnections on the integrated circuit are much more reliable than solder connections. With more circuitry on each chip, there are fewer interchip connections. IBM System/360: By 1964, IBM had a firm grip on the computer market with its 7000 series of machines. In that year, IBM announced the System/360, a new family of computer products. Although the announcement itself was no surprise, it contained some unpleasant news for current IBM customers: the 360 product line was incompatible with older IBM machines.

Thus, the transition to the 360 would be difficult for the current customer base. This was a bold step by IBM, but one IBM felt was necessary to break out of some of the constraints of the 7000 architecture and to produce a system capable of evolving with the new integrated circuit technology. The 360 was the success of the decade and cemented IBM as the overwhelmingly dominant computer vendor, with a market share above 70%. The System/360 was the industry’s first planned family of computers. The family covered a wide range of performance and cost. Table 1.2 indicates some of the key characteristics of the various models in 1965.

The concept of a family of compatible computers was both novel and extremely successful. The characteristics of a family are as follows: •Similar or identical instruction set: The program that executes on one machine will also execute on any other. •Similar or identical operating system: The same basic operating system is available for all family members. •Increasing speed: the rate of instruction execution increases in going from lower to higher family members. •Increasing number of I/O ports: In going from lower to higher family members. •Increasing memory size: In going from lower to higher family members. •Increasing cost: In going from lower to higher family members.

DEC PDP-8: Another momentous first shipment occurred: PDP-8 from DEC. At a time when the average computer required an air-conditioned room, the PDP-8 (dubbed a minicomputer by the industry) was small enough that it could be placed on top of a lab bench or be built into other equipment. It could not do everything the mainframe could, but at $16,000, it was cheap enough for each lab technician to have one. The low cost and small size of the PDP-8 enabled another manufacturer to purchase a PDP-8 and integrate it into a total system for resale. These other manufacturers came to be known as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and the OEM market became and remains a major segment of the computer marketplace. As DEC’s official history puts it, the PDP-8 “established the concept of minicomputers, leading the way to a multibillion dollar industry.”

Later Generations

Beyond the third generation there is less general agreement on defining generations of computers. Table 1.3 suggests that there have been a number of later generations, based on advances in integrated circuit technology. GenerationApproximate DatesTechnologyTypical Speed (operations per second)

With the rapid pace of technology, the high rate of introduction of new products and the importance of software and communications as well as hardware, the classification by generation becomes less clear and less meaningful. In this section, we mention two of the most important of these results. Semiconductor Memory: The first application of integrated circuit technology to computers was construction of the processor (the control unit and the arithmetic and logic unit) out of integrated circuit chips. But it was also found that this same technology could be used to construct memories. In the 1950s and 1960s, most computer memory was constructed from tiny rings of ferromagnetic material, each about a sixteenth of an inch in diameter. These rings were strung up on grids of fine wires suspended on small screens inside the computer. Magnetized one way, a ring (called a core) represented a one; magnetized the other way, it stood for a zero.

It was expensive, bulky, and used destructive readout. Then, in 1970, Fairchild produced the first relatively capacious semiconductor memory. This chip, about the size of a single core, could hold 256 bits of memory. It was non-destructive and much faster than core. It took only 70 billionths of a second to read a bit. However, the cost per bit was higher than for that of core. In 1974, a seminal event occurred: The price per bit of semiconductor memory dropped below the price per bit of core memory. Following this, there has been a continuing and rapid decline in memory cost accompanied by a corresponding increase in physical memory density. Since 1970, semiconductor memory has been through 11 generations: 1K, 4K, 16K, 64K, 256K, 1M, 4M, 16M, 64M, 256M, and, as of this writing, 1G bits on a single chip.

Each generation has provided four times the storage density of the previous generation, accompanied by declining cost per bit and declining access time. Microprocessors: Just as the density of elements on memory chips has continued to rise, so has the density of elements on processor chips. As time went on, more and more elements were placed on each chip, so that fewer and fewer chips were needed to construct a single computer processor. A breakthrough was achieved in 1971, when Intel developed its 4004. The 4004 was the first chip to contain all of the components of a CPU on a single chip: the microprocessor was born. The 4004 can add two 4-bit numbers and can multiply only be repeated addition. By today’s standards, the 4004 is hopelessly primitive, but it marked the beginning of a continuing evolution of microprocessor capability and power.

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