Recent advances in microelectronic technology have made computers an integral part of our society. Each step in our everyday lives maybe influenced by computer technology: we awake to a digital alarm clock\u2019s beaming of reselected music at the right time, drive to work in a digital alarm clock\u2019s beaming of reselected music at the right time, drive to work in a digital-processor-controlled automobile, work in an extensively automated office, shop for computer-coded grocery items and return to rest in the computer-regulated heating and cooling environment of our homes. It may not be necessary to understand the detailed operating principles of a jet plane or an automobile on order to use and enjoy the benefits of these technical marvels. But a fair understanding of the operating principles, capabilities, and limitations of digital computers is necessary, if we would use them in an efficient manner. This book is designed to give such an understanding of the operating principles of digital computers. This chapter will begin by describing the organization of a general-purpose digital computer system and then will briefly trace the evolution of computers.
organized. Different systems have different details, but in general all computers consist of components (processor, memory, controllers, video) connected together with abus. Physically, abus consists of many parallel wires, usually printed (in copper) on the main circuit board of the computer. Data signals, clock signals, and control signals are sent on the bus back and forth between components. A particular type of bus follows a carefully written standard that describes the signals that are carried on the wires and what the signals mean. The PCI standard (for example) describes the PCI bus used on most current PCs.
controller. If so, the machine operation puts data and control signals on the bus, and (may) wait for data and control signals to return. Some machine operations take place entirely inside the processor (the bus is not involved). These operations are very fast.
processor, and then send device-specific control signals to the device they control. They also manage the data flow to and from the device. This frees the central processor from involvement with the details of controlling each device. I/O controllers are needed only for those I/O devices that are part of the system.
but this is a matter of software organization, not a hardware requirement. Also, most computers have special sections of memory that permanently hold programs (firmware stored in ROM), and other sections that are permanently used for special purposes.
Main memory (also calledmain storage or justmemory) holds the bit patterns of machine instructions and the bit patterns of data. Memory chips and the electronics that controls them are concerned only with saving bit patterns and returning them when requested. No distinction is made between bit patterns that are intended as instructions and bit patterns that are intended as data. The amount of memory on a system is often described in terms of:
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