Can someone explain in details what is Computer architecture?

Posted on 2011-03-03
Last Modified: 2012-06-22
Hello Expert I have been searching to know about Computer architecture, how it works and what kind of architecture are we using these days but in a layman man term if possible or at least in an easy way pls , no wiki , I did got there . Also if possible advantages  and disadvantages if possible . thks alot
Question by:hnael
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Expert Comment

ID: 35030555
This is a tricky question not knowing at what level you mean.  At one level, it means the way in which the computer's Central Processing Unit (CPU) communicates with memory and peripherals.  A deeper level is the way in which the CPU is designed.  There are other levels.

I'd rather focus on the level that's important to you and do the best job at that.

Author Comment

ID: 35030860
Ok can u explain both pls and I will decide. Thnx

Accepted Solution

korz earned 250 total points
ID: 35033048
Well, it's not both, but many.  For example two general CPU computer architectures are Register Machines versus Stack Machines.  In a Register Machine, the data being operated on is read from some kind of mass storage and stored temporarily in uniquely addressable registers.  Operands might add register A to register B and put the result in register X.  In contrast, a Stack Machine operates on stacks of data.  You push the data onto one or more stacks, and then you select operands such as "add stack A" which pops the top two elements from stack A, adds them together and pushes the result back onto stack A.  A stack machine is more efficient in terms of code density (you get more done with less code) for *certain* kinds of applications.  A Register Computer is more efficient for other kinds of applications.

At another level are the Von-Neumann Architecture vs. the Harvard Architecture.  In the Von-Neumann architecture, you have a Control Unit, Memory, and an Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU).  The Control Unit mediates all the fetching and storing of data and the ALU not only performs the operations, but also is where the Input and Output are handled.  The Harvard Architecture, in contrast, allows for data and instructions to be read and written on separate data paths (buses).

Then there's RISC (reduced instruction set) versus CISC (complex instruction set) architectures.  RISC is generally agreed to be faster as it optimizes a smaller number of nimble operations.  It also allows for simpler, faster compilers.

Then there's multithreading (big pile of data, let's say an image, split up into a bunch of small piles, each of which is processed simultaneously), pipelined processing (data is pushed into a long series of processing steps so that you don't wait for one piece of data to be processed before the next piece is pushed in), and integrated memory controllers (where the CPU has the memory controller onboard, rather than have it as a separate Memory Management Unit chip).

Modern computers have a modified Harvard architecture with a ton of other architectural features, for example, most now have multithreading.  All are Register Machines and the majority are RISC.

I took a 16-week course at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Computer Architecture as part of my Masters degree and that was 25 years ago, long before 3/4 of the current technologies.  So, I've only given a very brief description of some of the major architectural differences... maybe that's all you needed...

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ID: 35035884

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