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Here is a diagram representing a computer system.

Note
the direction of data flow between the different parts of
the system.

Main Memory
RAM & ROM

Input Processor Output

Backing
Storage
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The parts which go together to make up the computer system
need to be able to communicate with one another.
There are three sets of electrical lines which connect all the
parts. These sets of lines are called buses.

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Addressability
The Processor "sees" all the other parts of the computer,
(ROM & RAM, Backing storage, Input and Output devices)
as one continuous block of locations each with its own
unique address.
Each location has a different binary number which identifies it.
This is its address.

Giving every part of the computer a unique address allows


the processor to communicate easily with any other part of
the computer system and is known as addressability.

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The three buses which carry signals around the computer
system each have their own particular function.

1. Address Bus
This is used by the Processor to indicate which location has
to be accessed.
It is a one-way bus from the processor as the processor
dictates all movement of signals.

The number of lines on the address bus determines the


maximum amount of memory locations which can be accessed.

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Address bus width and addressable memory 2 lines
A 2 line address bus would allow 4 addresses. 00
01
because 22 = 4.
10
11
A 3 line address bus would allow 8 addresses.
because 23 = 8. 3 lines
000
X lines on the address bus allows 2x addresses. 001
010
A 24 line address bus allows 011
224 = 16Mb of addresses. 100
101
A 32 line address bus allows 110
232 = 4Gb of addresses. 111

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Calculating maximum memory size
To calculate maximum memory size we need to consider two
elements:

the number of memory locations.(addresses)

the size of each memory location.

The following are assumed in the Higher course.

The size of each memory location


= data bus width
= memory word size.

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Consider the following example:

Calculate the maximum memory size of a computer with a


24 bit address bus and a memory word size of 16 bits.

A 24 bit address bus allows 224 addresses = 16 MB of addresses.

Each address contains 16 bits = 2 bytes

Maximum memory size =16 MB x 2 bytes = 32 MB

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2. Data bus
This is the bus which is used to transfer the actual
data to and from the locations.
It is a two-way bus as data may be going to the processor
(Read) or coming from the processor(Write).

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Control bus
With both the data and the address buses, each of the lines
operate together, in parallel, at the same time, as a unit.
e.g. It would not make sense to look at one of the lines on
the address bus.
You have to look at them all to see the full address.

The Control bus is a collective name for a number of discrete


lines each of which has a different function and operates at
different times.

They are best viewed as a number of individual lines.

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We’ll start with three of the lines on the control bus:
1. Read line
The processor activates this line to show that it wants to be
sent (read) data from another part of the computer system.
2. Write line
The processor activates this line to show that it wants to
send (write) data to another part of the computer system.

3.Clock line
This line sends a regular series of pulses at a speed
measured in Hertz(Hz).
Every event in the computer is timed to take place at
particular points within the on/off cycle of each pulse.
It controls the speed and timing of all operations in the computer.
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Other lines on the control bus include:

4. Reset line
This line resets (clears the contents of all) the registers
inside the processor. This prepares it for carrying out a
new task.

5. Interrupt line
Devices send a signal in on this line to interrupt the
processor when they need attention.
e.g. the printer may be out of paper.

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You have now seen the processor, main memory and
three buses.

The processor uses the three buses to communicate


with the main memory.

The processor works on data which is stored in main memory.

It therefore spends a lot of time transferring data to and from


the main memory.

The two most basic operations which the processor carries


out are memory read and memory write.

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Memory Read
1. Processor copies the required address onto the address bus.
2. Processor activates the read line on the control bus.
3. Memory controller copies the data from the required address
onto the data bus and the data is transferred from the main
memory to the processor.

Memory Write
1. Processor copies the required address onto the address bus.
2. Processor copies the data onto the data bus.
3. Processor activates the write line on the control bus.
4. Memory controller copies the data from the data bus and
puts it into the required memory location.
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The following components are generally found inside a
Processor.

Register Arithmetic &


Logic unit. (ALU)
Register

Register Control
Unit. (CU)
Register

The three buses(although not shown here) continue inside


the processor to allow the components to communicate.
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Register
1. Registers
A register is a storage location located inside Register
the processor. A modern processor has many
registers. Register

Register
Registers are used to hold :

● data which is being processed

● instructions which are being executed

● addresses which are about to be accessed.

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2. Control Unit (CU) Control
Unit. (CU)

The Control Unit (CU) is responsible for

● sending out the pulses on the control bus clock line to


synchronise the timing of events and direct the fetching
and executing of instructions.

● decoding the instructions when they arrive from the RAM


and executing them. (i.e. carrying them out)

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3. Arithmetic & Logic Unit (ALU) Arithmetic &
Logic unit. (ALU)

The Arithmetic & Logic Unit is responsible for:

● carrying out the calculations on data being processed by


a program.

● carrying out the logical decision making on data being


processed by a program. This uses operators such as
AND, OR, NOT.

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Any problem can be solved by defining a sequence of
instructions which are input and stored in RAM.

A unit, called the Processor, then fetches each instruction


in turn and executes it.

The sets of instructions are called programs and the


processor spends its time fetching and executing
instructions one at a time.

This is known as the fetch-execute cycle.

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The steps in the fetch part of the cycle are always the same.

1. The processor sets up the address bus with the


address of the next instruction to be fetched.
2. The processor sends a read signal on the control bus.

3. The instruction is then copied onto the data bus from


the correct memory location to a register in the CPU.
4. The CU(Control unit) decodes the instruction and begins
to execute it.

The steps in the execute part of the cycle depend on the


instruction to be executed.
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A computer has to store data and instructions. It uses
uses various types of memory to do this.
Speed of access
Registers fastest

Cache memory

Main memory

Backing storage
slowest

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1.Registers Registers
The registers are storage locations located
inside the processor. Cache memory

Main memory
They allow the fastest access times as they
are physically on the same chip as the Backing storage
processor.

Registers are used to hold :

● data which is being processed

● instructions which are being executed

● addresses which are about to be accessed.

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2.Cache memory Registers
Cache memory is the second fastest type
of memory. Cache memory

Main memory
It is small amount of a fast type of Ram called
static RAM(SRAM) which is used to store Backing storage
frequently accessed data and instructions.

The processor looks here for data before going out to the
main memory. If the data is here then it can be very
quickly accessed.

Modern computers will have around 1 or 2 Mb


of cache memory.

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3. Main memory Registers
Main memory is the third fastest type of Cache memory
memory.
Main memory
It is made of a large amount of a type of Ram
called dynamic RAM(DRAM) which is used to Backing storage
store programs and data. It also contains a
small of amount of ROM for operating system
use.

If the data or instructions cannot be found in the


cache then the processor will access it from the
main memory.
Modern computers will have between 1 GB
and 4GB of main memory.

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4. Backing Storage Registers
Backing storage is the slowest type of Cache memory
memory. It is needed because it keeps its
contents even when the power is switched Main memory
off unlike the types of memory listed so far.
Backing storage
(except for ROM)

Backing stores also tend to have a larger capacity than


the faster types of memory. i.e. they can store more.

There are many types of backing storage including Hard


disk, DVD, CD,Floppy disk, magnetic tape, and solid state
devices such as flash cards/memory sticks.
The speed of access varies according to the backing store
used.
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How can you compare the performance of two computers?
There are many ways to do this and some are better than others.

We will be looking at four methods used for comparison:

1. Clock speed
2. MIPS
3. FLOPS
4. Application based tests
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1. Clock speed
2. MIPS
3. FLOPS
4. Application based
The clock speed is often given as a tests
measure of computer performance but it
really only measures processor speed.
It seems reasonable to assume that a Pentium IV 3.6 Ghz
is faster than a Pentium IV 2.8 GHz. These processors
are both made by Intel, have the same instruction set and
basically work in the same way.
When comparing different makes and types of processor,
however, the one with the faster clock speed may not be
“better”. The slower processor may work more efficiently.
Comparing clock speeds alone is a poor measure of performance.
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1. Clock speed
2. MIPS
3. FLOPS
4. Application based
tests
Why can’t we just keep increasing the
clock speed?

•The processor can overheat and this will cause damage.

• The other components may not be able to keep up with


the processor and so “bottlenecks occur”.

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1. Clock speed
2. MIPS
3. FLOPS
4. Application based
(millions of instructions per second) tests

MIPS measures how many instructions the processor


executes per second.
This seems like a good idea but different processors have
different instruction sets and so they are difficult to compare.
It doesn’t take into account the size and complexity of
the instructions chosen for the tests.
A manufacturer may choose a program with simple, fast
instructions in it to make their processor look good.
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1. Clock speed
2. MIPS
3. FLOPS
4. Application based
(floating point operations per second) tests

This measure involves getting the processor to carry out


floating point operations.(calculations on real numbers) and
measures how many it can do each second.

Floating point operations are carried out in the same way


by most processors so this is a better method than clock
speed or MIPS.

FLOPS only measures calculating speed and does not


consider the type of applications (programs) that a user
may want to run on the computer.
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1. Clock speed
2. MIPS
3. FLOPS
4. Application based
tests

The best measure of performance involves running a set of tests


using typical examples of commonly used applications.
The tasks include loading large files, editing graphics, carrying
out calculations etc. These are called benchmark tests and
they show how well each processor can carry out specific
tasks.
Computers are given a score for each test depending on how
well they perform and so overall scores can be compared.

This is a very realistic way of measuring performance.


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The type of processor used plays a large part in determining
system performance. However, other parts of the computer
also have an effect on how well the computer performs.

We will be looking at three factors which have an effect:

1. Data bus width


2. Cache memory
3. Data transfer rate to/from
peripherals.

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1. Data bus width
2. Cache memory
3. Data transfer rate
to/from peripherals

Data and instructions are transferred using the data bus.


A 64 bit data bus can carry twice as much data at a time
as a 32 bit data bus.
A wider data bus means that more data can be
transferred at a time and this therefore improves system
performance.
This assumes that the other components e.g. registers
can cope with the larger amounts of data.
Also less fetches from RAM are required which also
improves system performance.
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1. Data bus width
2. Cache memory
3. Data transfer rate
to/from peripherals

As you have already seen, cache memory is a small fast


type of RAM which sits between the Processor and the
main memory(RAM).
Level 1 Cache is the fastest type of cache as it is
physically on the same chip as the processor.
Level 2 Cache is on a separate chip and so it is slower to
access than Level 1. Both types are much faster than
main memory RAM.
Increasing the amount of cache memory improves the
system performance.
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1. Data bus width
2. Cache memory
3. Data transfer rate
to/from peripherals

A peripheral is any device that is not part of the essential


computer. (the processor, memory, and bus paths).

Some peripherals are mounted in the same case with the


main part of the computer, e.g.
the hard disk drive, DVD drive, and network interface card (NIC)

Other peripherals are outside the computer case, e.g.


the printer, mouse, keyboard,scanner, attached by a wired or
wireless connection CS Topic 2 - Computer Structure v2 34
1. Data bus width
2. Cache memory
3. Data transfer rate
to/from peripherals

The processor communicates with peripheral devices. e.g.


loading a file from a hard disk, scanning an image etc.
Peripheral devices transfer at different speeds and so these
can have an effect on system performance too. Peripheral
device interfaces also transfer at different speeds.
A hard disk drive spinning at 10000 rpm (revolutions per minute)
generally performs better than a 7200 rpm drive.
http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/index.htm
Using peripherals with fast data transfer rates will improve
system performance. CS Topic 2 - Computer Structure v2 35
Computer technology is constantly improving with new ideas
and techniques to improve performance.

The following three trends have been seen for many years:

1. Increasing clock speeds


2. Increasing main memory
3. Increasing backing storage
capacity.

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1. Increasing clock speeds
2. Increasing main memory
3. Increasing backing storage
capacity.
Clock speeds have increased rapidly over the years and are
now measured in Gigahertz . Over the last year both Intel and
AMD have announced that they will concentrate on other
ways to improve system performance.
A new desktop or laptop computer will have a processor with
a clock speed of around 2.8 to 3.4 GHz.
AMD processors tend to have slower clock speeds than
Intel processors but AMD argue that their processors are
more efficient.
Have a look at the websites for current figures and
products. www.intel.co.uk www.amd.com
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1. Increasing clock speeds
2. Increasing main memory
3. Increasing backing storage
capacity.

The technology for making Main memory (RAM) continues


to improve and capacity has increased while costs continue
to fall.
A new desktop or laptop computer will have between 1GB
and 4GB of RAM fitted as standard.
Increasing the amount of main memory(RAM) is a very
effective way of improving system performance.
If a computer does not have enough RAM then it has to
make use of the Hard disk drive for temporary storage too.
This is called virtual memory and is much slower to access
than RAM. CS Topic 2 - Computer Structure v2 38
1. Increasing clock speeds
2. Increasing main memory
3. Increasing backing storage
capacity.

The technology for making Backing storage also continues to


improve and capacity has increased while costs continue to fall.
A new desktop computer will have a Hard disk drive of
anywhere between 250 GB and 1 TB fitted as standard.

Laptop computers tend to have smaller Hard disk drives with


capacities from 150 GB to 500 GB .
DVDs and solid state storage devices such as flash cards,
memory sticks and memory cards also continue to increase
in capacity while decreasing in price.
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