Assembly Language - Essay

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ASSEMBLY LANGUAGE
An assembly language is a low-level programming language for a computer, microcontroller, or other programmable device, in which each statement corresponds to a single machine code instruction. Each assembly language is specific to a particular computer architecture, in contrast to most high-level programming languages, which are generally portable across multiple systems. Assembly language is converted into executable machine code by a utility program referred to as an assembler; the conversion process is referred to as assembly, or assembling the code. Assembly language uses a mnemonic to represent each low-level machine operation or opcode. Some opcodes require one or more operands as part of the instruction, and most assemblers can take labels and symbols as operands to represent addresses and constants, instead of hard coding them into the program. Macro assemblers include a macroinstruction facility so that assembly language text can be pre-assigned to a name, and that name can be used to insert the text into other code. Many assemblers offer additional mechanisms to facilitate program development, to control the assembly process, and to aid debugging. HISTORY OF ASSEMBLY LANGUAGE

Assembly languages date to the introduction of the stored-program computer. The EDSAC computer (1949) had an assembler called initial orders featuring one-letter mnemonics. Nathaniel Rochester wrote an assembler for an IBM 701 (1954). SOAP (Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program) (1955) was an assembly language for the IBM 650 computer written by Stan Poley. Assembly languages eliminated much of the error-prone and time-consuming first-generation programming needed with the earliest computers, freeing programmers from tedium such as remembering numeric codes and calculating addresses. They were once widely used for all sorts of programming. However, by the 1980s (1990s on microcomputers), their use had largely been supplanted by high-level languages, in the search for improved programming productivity. Today assembly language is still used for direct hardware manipulation, access to specialized processor instructions, or to address critical performance issues. Typical uses are device drivers, low-level embedded systems, and real-time systems. Historically, a large number of programs have been written entirely in assembly language. Operating systems were entirely written in assembly language until the introduction of the Burroughs MCP (1961), which was written in ESPOL, an Algol dialect. Many commercial applications were written in assembly language as well, including a large amount of the IBM mainframe software written by large corporations. COBOL, FORTRAN and some PL/I eventually displaced much of this work, although a number of large organizations retained assembly-language application infrastructures well into the '90s. Most early microcomputers relied on hand-coded assembly language, including most operating systems and large applications. This was because these systems had severe resource constraints, imposed idiosyncratic memory and display architectures, and provided limited, buggy system services. Perhaps more important was the lack of first-class high-level language compilers suitable for microcomputer use. A psychological factor may have also played a role: the first generation of microcomputer programmers retained a hobbyist, "wires and pliers" attitude. In a more commercial context, the biggest reasons for using assembly language were minimal bloat (size), minimal overhead, greater speed, and reliability. Typical examples of large assembly language programs from this time are IBM PC DOS operating systems and early applications such as the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3. Even into the 1990s, most console video games were written in assembly, including most games for the Mega Drive/Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. According to some industry insiders, the assembly language was the best computer...
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