Fundamentals of Computer Design
And now for something completely different.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
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Introduction The Task of a Computer Designer Technology Trends Cost, Price and their Trends Measuring and Reporting Performance Quantitative Principles of Computer Design Putting It All Together: Performance and Price-Performance Another View: Power Consumption and Efficiency as the Metric Fallacies and Pitfalls Concluding Remarks Historical Perspective and References Exercises
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Computer technology has made incredible progress in the roughly 55 years since the ﬁrst general-purpose electronic computer was created. Today, less than a thousand dollars will purchase a personal computer that has more performance, more main memory, and more disk storage than a computer bought in 1980 for $1 million. This rapid rate of improvement has come both from advances in the technology used to build computers and from innovation in computer design. Although technological improvements have been fairly steady, progress arising from better computer architectures has been much less consistent. During the ﬁrst 25 years of electronic computers, both forces made a major contribution; but beginning in about 1970, computer designers became largely dependent upon integrated circuit technology. During the 1970s, performance continued to improve at about 25% to 30% per year for the mainframes and minicomputers that dominated the industry. The late 1970s saw the emergence of the microprocessor. The ability of the microprocessor to ride the improvements in integrated circuit technology more closely than the less integrated mainframes and minicomputers led to a higher rate of improvement—roughly 35% growth per year in performance.
Chapter 1 Fundamentals of Computer Design
This growth rate, combined with the cost advantages of a mass-produced microprocessor, led to an increasing fraction of the computer business being based on microprocessors. In addition, two signiﬁcant changes in the computer marketplace made it easier than ever before to be commercially successful with a new architecture. First, the virtual elimination of assembly language programming reduced the need for object-code compatibility. Second, the creation of standardized, vendor-independent operating systems, such as UNIX and its clone, Linux, lowered the cost and risk of bringing out a new architecture. These changes made it possible to successfully develop a new set of architectures, called RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architectures, in the early 1980s. The RISC-based machines focused the attention of designers on two critical performance techniques, the exploitation of instruction-level parallelism (initially through pipelining and later through multiple instruction issue) and the use of caches (initially in simple forms and later using more sophisticated organizations and optimizations). The combination of architectural and organizational enhancements has led to 20 years of sustained growth in performance at an annual rate of over 50%. Figure 1.1 shows the effect of this difference in performance growth rates. The effect of this dramatic growth rate has been twofold. First, it has signiﬁcantly enhanced the capability available to computer users. For many applications, the highest performance microprocessors of today outperform the supercomputer of less than 10 years ago. Second, this dramatic rate of improvement has led to the dominance of microprocessor-based computers across the entire range of the computer design. Workstations and PCs have emerged as major products in the computer industry. Minicomputers, which were traditionally made from off-the-shelf logic or from gate arrays, have been replaced by servers made using microprocessors. Mainframes have been almost completely replaced with...
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