What is a computer? Computers are machines that perform arithmetical calculations automatically, under the control of sequences of instructions, or programs, in their internal storage, or memory.
Computers can be programmed in languages that people find easy to use and understand, but programs in these languages are either read and acted upon (or interpreted) by other computer programs, or translated into the computer's own language (or compiled) by other computer programs.
What does a computer's own language look like?
There are a number of different formats used by different types of computer. The instruction set used by the most popular type of microprocessor is quite complicated, because when it was originally developed as a 16-bit processor, it was designed to be very similar to the 8-bit processor that preceded it; and then new instructions were added on to make it a 32-bit processor.
Thus, as an introduction to computer machine language, a fictitious machine with a simple design is shown here. (It is, however, quite strongly inspired by two real machines: primarily the IBM 360, and to some extent by the Motorola 68000.)
The computer is designed to handle an address space of 4,294,967,296 bytes, because an address occupies 32 bits, and is treated as an unsigned quantity.
Integers are stored in two's complement notation; what this means can be explained by using a decimal computer which uses ten's complement notation, the decimal equivalent, as an example. If a computer stores numbers in only four digits, then adding 9999 to 5, which normally produces 10,004, will instead just produce 4, because the first digit is cut off.
Thus, 9999 can be thought of as standing for -1, without the need to include a sign directly in how numbers are represented.
Similarly, in a computer that stores numbers in only four hexadecimal digits, FFFF stands for -1 in two's complement notation.
Other formats are one's complement notation, where FFFE would be -1, and sign-magnitude notation, where 8001 would be -1.
Our computer would have the following complement of registers directly visible to the ordinary programmer:
where a register is like the display on a pocket calculator; a place where a number is kept with which the computer is currently working.
Eight registers are Arithmetic/Index Registers. They are used for calculations on 32-bit integers, as well as calculations on shorter 16-bit or 8-bit integers. Also, the number in one of these registers can be used by an instruction as an index register; that means the number will indicate which element of an array is to be used for a calculation.
Eight registers are Base Registers. While addresses in this computer are 32 bits long, to allow a large amount of memory to be used, it would be wasteful to include a 32-bit address in every instruction that refers to memory. Instead, instructions that refer to memory give the number of a Base Register, and its 32-bit contents are added to the 16-bit address in the instruction itself to identify the memory location to be used.
Note that the contents of an index register or a base register are both added to the address in an instruction, but they are normally used for opposite purposes. The base register indicates the large area of memory being used; the address in the instruction indicates the particular variable being used; and the index register indicates the element of an array variable.
The ordinary arithmetic instructions of this computer come in the following formats:
Each instruction comes in several parts. The opcode indicates what operation is being performed. It also indicates what kind of number is being operated on. The field marked dR (destination register) indicates which of the eight registers of the appropriate type will contain the result of the operation, and which also contains the first operand for the operation. The fields marked sX and sB indicate the index register and the base register used in calculating the address of the source of the second operand for the operation. If sB is zero, a memory operand is not used; instead, a register is used as the source, and thus sR (source register) replaces sX. If a memory operand is used, but sX is zero, that simply means that indexing does not take place.
The opcodes for these instructions are:
000xxx IB Insert Byte 001xxx CB Compare Byte 002xxx LB Load Byte 003xxx STB Store Byte 004xxx AB Add Byte 005xxx SB Subtract Byte 010xxx NB AND Byte 011xxx OB OR Byte 012xxx XB XOR Byte 013xxx SWB Swap Byte 014xxx ULB Unsigned Load Byte 015xxx SBG Store Byte if Greater 020xxx IH Insert Halfword 021xxx CH Compare Halfword 022xxx LH Load Halfword 023xxx STH Store Halfword 024xxx AH Add Halfword 025xxx SH Subtract Halfword 026xxx MH Multiply Halfword 027xxx DH Divide Halfword 030xxx NH AND Halfword 031xxx OH OR Halfword 032xxx XH XOR Halfword 033xxx SWH Swap Halfword 034xxx ULH Unsigned Load Halfword 036xxx MEH Multiply Extensibly Halfword 037xxx DEH Divide Extensibly Halfword 041xxx C Compare 042xxx L Load 043xxx ST Store 044xxx A Add 045xxx S Subtract 046xxx M Multiply 047xxx D Divide 050xxx N AND 051xxx O OR 052xxx X XOR 053xxx SW Swap 056xxx ME Multiply Extensibly 057xxx DE Divide Extensibly 061xxx CL Compare Long 062xxx LL Load Long 063xxx STL Store Long 064xxx AL Add Long 065xxx SL Subtract Long 066xxx ML Multiply Long 067xxx DL Divide Long 070xxx NL AND Long 071xxx OL OR Long 072xxx XL XOR Long 073xxx SWL Swap Long 076xxx MEL Multiply Extensibly Long 077xxx DEL Divide Extensibly Long 111xxx CF Compare Floating 112xxx LF Load Floating 113xxx STF Store Floating 114xxx AF Add Floating 115xxx SF Subtract Floating 116xxx MF Multiply Floating 117xxx DF Divide Floating 121xxx CD Compare Double 122xxx LD Load Double 123xxx STD Store Double 124xxx AD Add Double 125xxx SD Subtract Double 126xxx MD Multiply Double 127xxx DD Divide Double 131xxx CQ Compare Quad 132xxx LQ Load Quad 133xxx STQ Store Quad 134xxx AQ Add Quad 135xxx SQ Subtract Quad 136xxx MQ Multiply Quad 137xxx DQ Divide Quad
It may not be completely obvious what some of these instructions do from their names.
The Byte instructions act on the least significant 8 bits of the arithmetic-index registers. The Halfword instructions act on the least significant 16 bits of the arithmetic-index registers. The instructions which act on an entire arithmetic-index register are those whose name does not mention a type. The Long instructions act on pairs of registers, and thus only even-numbered register operands are possible with them (but any index or base register, even or odd, can still be used).
The Floating instructions use the first 32 bits of the floating-point registers, the Double instructions the first 64 bits, and the Quad instructions use the entire 128 bits.
An Insert instruction loads an operand shorter than the destination register into the last few bits of that register without disturbing the bits which cannot be loaded because the operand is too short in size. In this case, a Load instruction instead causes its operand to be sign extended; that is, if the first bit is 0, all bits to the left of what is being loaded are cleared; if the first bit is 1, all bits to the left are set to 1. In an Unsigned Load instruction, bits beyond the item loaded to the left are always cleared.
The Compare instructions don't change any numbers, but they set status bits as if a subtraction had been performed, except that the subtraction is one performed as if no overflows could take place.
A Multiply Extensibly instruction produces a product that is twice as long as its two operands. The least significant part is stored in the destination register; the most significant part is stored immediately previously. For MEH, that is in the left-hand part of the same register; for ME, that is in the previous register; and for MEL, that is in the previous two registers.
A Divide Extensibly instruction requires an operand that is twice as long as the precision in use to be set up in the same area as the result of a Multiply Extensibly. After the operation, the quotient is in the double-length result area, and the remainder follows in the next register or registers. In the case of Divide Extensibly Halfword, the remainder is in the least significant part of the next register, even though that means there is a 16-bit gap.
The Store Byte if Greater instruction replaces the byte at the address of its memory operand by the byte contained in its register operand only if that byte, treated as an unsigned byte, is greater than the byte at that location; also, status bits are set based on the comparison.
In addition to the standard memory-reference instructions, other types of instruction are required in a computer. Here are the formats of these more specialized instructions:
and here are their opcodes:
101xxx CP Compare Packed 102xxx MVP Move Packed 104xxx AP Add Packed 105xxx SP Subtract Packed 106xxx MP Multiply Packed 107xxx DP Divide Packed 141xxx CC Compare Character 142xxx MVC Move Character 1441xx JL Jump if Low 1442xx JE Jump if Equal 1443xx JLE Jump if Low or Equal 1444xx JH Jump if High 1445xx JNE Jump if Not Equal 1446xx JHE Jump if High or Equal 1447xx JMP Jump 145xxx JMS Jump to Subroutine 146xxx JXH Jump if Index High 147xxx JXLE Jump if Index Low or Equal 150xxx SHL Shift Left 151xxx SHR Shift Right 153xxx ASR Arithmetic Shift Right 154xxx ROL Rotate Left 155xxx ROR Rotate Right 156xxx RLC Rotate Left through Carry 157xxx RRC Rotate Right through Carry 162xxx LM Load Multiple 163xxx STM Store Multiple 164xxx LMBR Load Multiple Base Registers 165xxx STMBR Store Multiple Base Registers 166xxx LMQ Load Multiple Quad 167xxx STMQ Store Multiple Quad 170xxx ECS Execute Condensed Subroutine 174xxx LBRA Load Base Register with Address 176xxx LBR Load Base Register 177xxx STBR Store Base Register
Some of these instructions involve bits of the status word. There is a carry bit which is set, either to 0 or to 1, by operations that could produce a carry out of one of the 32-bit arithmetic/index registers. Also, other bits indicate if the result of an arithmetic operation, whether integer or floating-point, is positive, negative, or zero. These determine if a conditional jump instruction results in a jump.
If indexed addressing is used in a jump instruction, the instruction does not jump to the memory location at the effective address, but instead to the location whose address it contains. This addressing mode, post-indexed indirect addressing, allows branching to one of several locations in a list. This also applies to the JMS instruction.
The JXH and JXLH instructions decrement and increment, respectively, the count register specified in the cR field, compare it to the limit register specified in the lR field, and jump if the count register is high in the first case, or low or equal in the second.
The LM and STM instructions operate on a range of destination registers specified in the instruction, and are useful for saving and restoring registers when a subroutine is called. The LMBR and STMBR instructions, and the LMQ and STMQ instructions perform the same function for the base registers and the floating-point registers.
The LBR and STBR instructions, as well as the LBRA instruction, have the format of a conventional memory-reference instruction. The LBRA instruction, instead of disturbing the contents of the location it refers to, merely places its address in the base register whose number is indicated by the dR field.
The instruction format shown as "Alternate" applies to the ECS instruction. It is a branch instruction, as can be seen from the presence of a jB (jump base) field. The fields iM and fM have the following significance:
iM fM 00 000 one-byte integer 01 001 two-byte (halfword) integer 10 010 four-byte (32-bit) integer 11 011 eight-byte (64-bit) integer 100 (not used) 101 four-byte floating-point number 110 eight-byte floating-point number 111 sixteen-byte floating-point number
and the target of the jump is a program written in a condensed-format instruction set in which only a single bit, instead of three bits, specify operand type.
Two instruction formats are available: one where the memory address consists of a single byte, indicating one of 256 operands having the type required for the instruction in a memory area pointed to by base register zero (which is otherwise unused), and one where the source operand is a register, and the destination operand is always register zero.
The two instruction formats used are shown here:
The opcode consists of the last four bits of the seven-bit opcode associated with the instruction type, or the last three bits for floating-point types.
Thus, the opcodes represent the following instructions:
0000 0 IPC Insert Primary Condensed 0001 0 CPC Compare Primary Condensed 0010 0 LPC Load Primary Condensed 0011 0 STPC Store Primary Condensed 0100 0 APC Add Primary Condensed 0101 0 SPC Subtract Primary Condensed 0110 0 MPC Multiply Primary Condensed 0111 0 DPC Divide Primary Condensed 1000 0 NPC AND Primary Condensed 1001 0 OPC OR Primary Condensed 1010 0 XPC XOR Primary Condensed 1011 0 SWPC Swap Primary Condensed 1100 0 ULPC Unsigned Load Primary Condensed 1110 0 MEPC Multiply Extensibly Primary Condensed 1111 0 DEPC Divide Extensibly Primary Condensed 0000 1 ISC Insert Secondary Condensed 0001 1 CSC Compare Secondary Condensed 0010 1 LSC Load Secondary Condensed 0011 1 STSC Store Secondary Condensed 0100 1 ASC Add Secondary Condensed 0101 1 SSC Subtract Secondary Condensed 0110 1 MSC Multiply Secondary Condensed 0111 1 DSC Divide Secondary Condensed 1000 1 NSC AND Secondary Condensed 1001 1 OSC OR Secondary Condensed 1010 1 XSC XOR Secondary Condensed 1011 1 SWSC Swap Secondary Condensed 1100 1 ULSC Unsigned Load Secondary Condensed 1110 1 MESC Multiply Extensibly Secondary Condensed 1111 1 DESC Divide Extensibly Secondary Condensed
followed by an additional R for Register where a short-format instruction, occupying a single byte, is to be assembled.
Opcode 1101 indicates several possible operations, depending on the following dR or sR field:
1101 0 000 NOPCR No Operation Condensed Register no operation 1101 0 010 * XNX Execute Next Indexed 1101 0 100 CLIR Condensed Long Instructions Register switch to 16-bit instructions 1101 0 101 CSI Condensed Short Instructions switch to 8-bit instructions 1101 0 111 RCB Return from Condensed Block RCBR Return from Condensed Block Register return from condensed instruction block 1101 1 nzp * LBC Loop Back Condensed loop back 0-255 16-bit halfwords if negative/zero/positive
Instructions marked with an asterisk do not require a preceding CLIR instruction, even though they are in 16-bit format, when executed following short format instructions. All except LBC also cause an implied CLIR for the interpretation of following instructions.
The last three bits of the 8-bit operand of the XNX instruction indicate which arithmetic/index register acts as an index register for the following instruction.
Thus, the ECS instruction allows subroutines to be executed which take up less memory than subroutines in the regular instruction set, allowing longer algorithms to fit in cache.
Of course, there are many aspects to the architecture of a computer besides its instruction set.Keyboards