Computer architecture refers to the basic structural elements of a computer system and how they work together. The term is often used interchangeably with “computer design.”
A Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the hardware within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logic, controlling, and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions.
The term “computer architecture” is sometimes used to refer to the functionality of a system, independent of its actual implementation. In this sense, it is similar to electronics or mechanical engineering. For example, one might speak of the “architecture” of a particular car, meaning its overall design and the way its various components work together.
WHAT IS COMPUTER ARCHITECTURE
Computer architecture is a field of study that covers a wide range of topics, from the design of individual microprocessors to the use of parallel processing architectures. It also encompasses system-level aspects such as memory management, I/O design, and networking. One common approach to understanding computer architecture is to divide it into layers. In this model, the lowest layer is the hardware, followed by the firmware or microcode, the operating system, and finally the applications.
Each higher level relies on the functionality provided by the lower levels. For example, an application might make a request to the operating system, which would then pass the request down to the firmware or microcode, which would then execute the request on the hardware. This layered approach is useful for understanding how a computer system works, but it is important to keep in mind that in practice there is often a great deal of interaction and overlap between these layers.
Computer architects often use a tool called abstractions to help them design and analyze complex systems. An abstraction is a simplified model that captures the essential characteristics of a system while ignoring irrelevant details. For example, when designing a new CPU, an architect might create an abstraction of the system that includes models of the functional units, the control unit, and the interconnections between them. This abstraction would allow the architect to analyze and optimize the design without getting bogged down in the details of the actual implementation.
Computer architects use a variety of techniques to create efficient and scalable systems. One important technique is called parallelism, which is the ability to split a task into multiple parts that can be executed simultaneously. For example, a computer might have multiple CPUs that can work on different parts of a problem at the same time. Alternatively, a single CPU might be able to execute multiple instructions at the same time using a technique called Instruction-Level Parallelism (ILP).
Another important technique for creating efficient systems is called locality, which is the ability to reuse data that is stored in close proximity to each other. For example, when a CPU fetches an instruction from memory, it is likely that the next instruction will also be needed soon. By fetching multiple instructions at the same time, the CPU can reduce the number of times it needs to access memory, which can improve performance.
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