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In , researcher John Cocke and his team at IBM Research began work on designing a controller for a telephone exchange. They wound up creating the first prototype computer employing a reduced instruction set computer RISC architecture. The new architecture design enabled computers to run much faster than was previously possible, and is still used in nearly every computational device today.
John Cocke was considered a brilliant man whose deep understanding of computer hardware and software, and the way they interact, made it possible for him to see innovative solutions to problems in many different fields.
He was often found walking from office to office at IBM, engaging colleagues in insightful discussions about their current project, even if it was not his specialty. He always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else, leading them forward in their work by talking through the details. The goal of the CISC design was to complete a task in as few lines of assembly code as possible. Architects would build complex instructions directly into the hardware—a microprocessor would come with a specific instruction set in which each single instruction executed a series of operations.
In this design, the compiler had to do very little work to translate a high-level language statement into assembly language. Cocke and his team reduced the size of the instruction set, eliminating certain instructions that were seldom used. With the new design, the CPU was only able to execute a limited set of instructions, but it could execute them much faster because the instructions were so simple.
Each task, such as fetching an instruction, accessing memory or writing data, could be completed within a single machine cycle, or electronic pulse; with CISC, tasks often required multiple machine cycles, taking at least twice as long to execute a task.
Because each instruction executed in the same amount of time, pipelining was possible. With pipelining, instructions could be set up like an assembly line with multiple instructions executing at the same time. For example, one instruction could be fetched, while another was decoded, while a third was executed and a fourth was writing the result. Each stage processed simultaneously, improving throughput for the entire workload.
In addition, external memory was only accessed by load and store instructions; all other instructions were limited to internal registers. This simplified processor design opened the door to faster computation. Hennessy at Stanford University. First featured in the Apple Power Macintosh , PowerPC architecture, known as Power ISA today, has a strong presence in the consumer electronics industry within gaming systems, automobiles and communication devices.
In the years since the introduction of RISC architecture design, processors have advanced and become more powerful than many would have believed possible. IBM has been there along the way, driving innovation in processor design. Today, just about every microprocessor is based on RISC architecture. The Team The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years.
Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress. Skip to main content. IBM Icons of Progress. Back to All Icons. Previous Next. And so, for example, a machine which was being used in a heavily scientific way, where floating point instructions were important, might make a different set of tradeoffs than another machine where that wasn't important.
Similarly, one in which compatibility with other machines was important or in which certain types of networking was important would include different features. But in each case they ought to be done as the result of measurements of relative frequency of use and the penalty that you would pay for the inclusion or non-inclusion of a particular feature.
Cocke often kept dialogues going with people on different subjects that spanned months, even years. Cocke on compiler research. Selected team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress: Dr.
A Tale of Two Processors: Revisiting the RISC-CISC Debate
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