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The "Von Neumann Architecture"

Most computers use the stored-program concept designed by Hungarian


mathematician John Von Neumann. In it, you store programs and data in a slow-
to-access storage medium (such as a hard disk) and work on them in a fast-
access, volatile storage medium (RAM). This concept, however, has an attendant
bottleneck: it was designed to process instructions one after the other instead of
using faster parallel processing.
A von Neumann Architecture computer has five parts: an arithmetic-logic unit
, a control unit , a memory , some form of input/output and a bus that provides a
data path between these parts.
A von Neumann Architecture computer performs or emulates the following
sequence of steps:

1. Fetch the next instruction from memory at the address in the program
counter.
2. Add 1 to the program counter.
3. Decode the instruction using the control unit. The control unit commands
the rest of the computer to perform some operation. The instruction may
change the address in the program counter, permitting repetitive
operations. The instruction may also change the program counter only if
some arithmetic condition is true, giving the effect of a decision, which
can be calculated to any degree of complexity by the preceding arithmetic
and logic.
4. Go back to step 1.

Very few computers have a pure von Neumann architecture. Most computers
add another step to check for interrupts, electronic events that could occur at
any time. An interrupt resembles the ring of a telephone, calling a person away
from some lengthy task. Interrupts let a computer do other things while it waits
for events.
Von Neumann computers spend a lot of time moving data to and from the
memory, and this slows the computer. So, engineers often separate the bus into
two or more busses, usually one for instructions, and the other for data.