There are a great deal of computer architecture texts in print at any one time. Many famous authors have tried their hands at writing in this area, however, computers constitute a rapidly advancing and fluid field, so few books can hope to keep up without constant revisions. Above all, the rapidity of the shift towards embedded computing systems has left many authors, and texts, foundering in the wake. Some texts persist in regarding computers in the same light as the room-sized machines of the 1950s and 1960s.Manymore view computers in the light of the desktop and server machines of the 1980s and 1990s. A handful acknowledge that the vast majority of computers in modern use are embedded within everyday objects. Few acknowledge that the future is embedded: there will come a time when the concept of a desktop computer seems as anachronistic as the punched card machines of 50 years ago.
This text is facing squarely towards the embedded future. Topics related to embedded processors are handled alongside the more traditional topics of other texts and, wherever possible, examples from the embedded world are highlighted.
The target audience for this book consists of three groups of people. Firstly, undergraduate students of computer architecture-related courses, typically those in their third year. Secondly, master's level students requiring a refresher in computer architecture before embarking on a more in-depth study. Thirdly, industrial engineers. As reconfigurable logic circuits, especially FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) are becoming larger, faster and cheaper, there is increasing interest in soft-core computers – that is CPUs designed by engineers for specific tasks. For perhaps the first time in history, these tools allow ordinary engineers the opportunity to design and build their own custom computers. Digesting this text will provide engineers with a solid platform of knowledge to understand the traditional and contemporary techniques and trade-offs in computer architecture – the art of computer design.
This text has been written from the bottom up without basing it on an existing book. This allows it to avoid many of the historical blind alleys and irrelevant side shows in computer evolution, leading to a more precisely defined focus. This is not just a computer architecture book with an extra chapter on embedded systems. It is a fresh and integrated look at the computer architecture of today, which is built upon the foundation and history of bigger and older machines, but which is definitely driving towards greater levels of integration within embedded systems.
This book aims to be an easy-access and readable text. Plenty of diagrams are given to explain tricky concepts, and many explanatory boxes are provided throughout, containing extra worked examples, interesting snippets of information and additional explanations to augment the main text. Apart from covering all of the main items in the typical computer architecture theory curriculum that are of relevance to embedded engineers (but excluding tape storage, Winchester drives and supercomputer design), the book contains a wealth of practical information for the target audience – even the opportunity to build and test out a custom soft-core processor.
SI units are used throughout the book, including the newer 'kibibyte'and'mebibyte' measures for computer memory (explained in Appendix A). Each of the main curriculum chapters includes end-of-chapter problems, with answers available in an instructor's manual. All examples, and much more material including recommendations for further reading, are available on the associated website at www.mheducation.asia/olc/mcloughlin. Ian McLoughlin