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Computer Systems Architecture


Author: Aharon Yadin

Publisher: Chapman and Hall


Publish Date: August 26, 2016

ISBN-10: 1482231050

Pages: 467

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK is to provide the necessary understanding of and background of hardware for IT (information technology) people. The term IT refers to a variety of disciples related to computer-based systems such as software engineering, information systems, computer science, and so on. Each one of these disciplines has its own focus and emphasis. In most cases, the hardware platform is viewed as an existing infrastructure, and it is sometimes insufficiently addressed or understood. Furthermore, technological developments in hardware in recent decades were aimed mainly at defining the hardware as a separated platform. As such, IT personnel, and especially software designers and developers, may regard it as a required layer of a computing solution, but a layer that they do not have to understand. In a sense, it is like using a car; the driver drives it but does not care about the internal mechanics. On the other hand, recent architectural developments, such as cloud computing,* virtualization,† and the abstractions required for implementing modern computing systems, emphasize the importance of an understanding of hardware. For example, desktop virtualization provides the capability to access any application, using any device. The user may use a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, and even appliances that have not yet been invented, and the application will work properly.

For that reason, this book is not about computer organization, but rather concerns ongoing issues related to computer hardware and the solutions provided by the industry for these issues.

Figure 0.1 defines most of the layers in a computer system, going top-down from the application (or program), which is usually developed using a high-level programming language, such as C#, C++, Java, and so on. In some cases, the compiler‡ translates the high-level programming languages’ instructions into assembly language, which represents the mnemonics of the instructions the machine understands. In other cases, the high-level programming languages are compiled directly into the machine language. The translated program (executable) will be able to run using services provided by the operating system, which is an additional software component, usually considered part of the infrastructure. The next level, which is a mixed software–hardware layer, is virtualization, which provides the possibility of defining virtual machines (this will be elaborated on in Chapter 10, “Additional Architectures”). The next level is the machine instructions. These binary values represent the instructions to be executed and are the only instructions the machine recognizes. In most modern computers, the binary instructions are designed using predefined building blocks, sometimes called microinstructions (this will be elaborated on in Chapter 4, “Central Processing Unit”). These building blocks are defined in the next layer of Figure 0.1. The last level is the digital circuits that understand and execute these building blocks and the instructions they produce. For quite some time, the separation between hardware and software was somewhat clear, as outlined by the dotted line in Figure 0.1.

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