Computer Organization and Design, 3rd Edition

We believe that learning in computer science and engineering should reflect the current state of the field, as well as introduce the principles that are shaping com­puting. We also feel that readers in every specialty of computing need to appreci­ate the organizational paradigms that determine the capabilities, performance, and, ultimately, the success of computer systems.

Modern computer technology requires professionals of every computing spe­cialty to understand both hardware and software. The interaction between hard­ware and software at a variety of levels also offers a framework for understanding the fundamentals of computing. Whether your primary interest is hardware or software, computer science or electrical engineering, the central ideas in computer organization and design are the same. Thus, our emphasis in this book is to show the relationship between hardware and software and to focus on the concepts that are the basis for current computers.

The audience for this book includes those with little experience in assembly language or logic design who need to understand basic computer organization as well as readers with backgrounds in assembly language and/or logic design who want to learn how to design a computer or understand how a system works and why it performs as it does.

Changes for the Third Edition

We had six major goals for the third edition of Computer Organization and Design: make the book work equally well for readers with a software focus or with a hard­ware focus; improve pedagogy in general; enhance understanding of program per­formance; update the technical content to reflect changes in the industry since the publication of the second edition in 1998; tie the ideas from the book more closely to the real world outside the computing industry; and reduce the size of this book.

First, the table on the next page shows the hardware and software paths through the material. Chapters 1, 4, and 7 are found on both paths, no matter what the expe­rience or the focus. Chapters 2 and 3 are likely to be review material for the hard­ware-oriented, but are essential reading for the software-oriented, especially for those readers interested in learning more about compilers and object-oriented pro­gramming languages. The first sections of Chapters 5 and 6 give overviews for those with a software focus. Those with a hardware focus, however, will find that these chapters present core material; they may also, depending on background, want to read Appendix B on logic design first and the sections on microprogramming and how to use hardware description languages to specify control. Chapter 8 on input/output is key to readers with a software focus and should be read if time per­mits by others. The last chapter on multiprocessors and clusters is again a question of time for the reader. Even the history sections show this balanced focus; they include short histories of programming languages, compilers, numerical software, operating systems, networking protocols, and databases.


1. Computer Abstractions and Technology
2. Instructions: Language of the Computer
3. Arithmetic for Computers
4. Assessing and Understanding Performance
5. The Processor: Datapath and Control
6. Enhancing Performance with Pipelining
7. Large and Fast: Exploiting Memory Hierarchy
8. Storage, Networks, and Other Peripherals
9. Multiprocessors and Clusters
A. Assemblers, Linkers, and the SPIM Simulator
B. The Basics of Logic Design
C. Mapping Control to Hardware
D. A Survey of RISC Architectures for Desktop, Server, and Embedded Computers

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