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INSTRUCTION SET DESIGN. Jehan-François Pâris [email protected] Chapter Organization. General Overview Objectives Realizations The MIPS instruction set. Importance. The instruction set of a processor is its interface with the outside world Defined by the hardware

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Chapter organization
Chapter Organization

  • General Overview

    • Objectives

    • Realizations

  • The MIPS instruction set


  • The instruction set of a processor is its interface with the outside world

    • Defined by the hardware

    • Used by assemblers, compilers and interpreters

  • Remained very visible to the users up to the 80’s

    • Earlier PC programs were written in assembler

Common features
Common features

  • A machine instruction normally consists of

    • An operation code

    • One, two or three operand addresses

    • Various flags

  • Some operands can be immediate

    • Address field contains the value of the operand instead of its address

Common features1
Common features

  • One or more operands can be in high-speed registers

    • Dedicated registers:

      • Very old solution

      • Register address can be specified in the opcode

    • General purpose registers

Common features2
Common features

  • Memory operand addresses are represented in a compact form

    • Base + displacement:

      • The address is specified by the contents of a base register plus a displacement

        • Saves space because displacement is generally small


  • IS should be

    • Expressive:

      • Powerful instructions

    • Designed for speed:

      • Should be able to run fast and allow extensive prefetching

    • Compact:

      • Faster fetches from disk and from main memory


  • User friendly:

    • Very important when people were expected to program is assembler

      • Manufacturers loved that because

        • Instruction sets were mostly proprietary:IBM 360/370 was the exception

        • Programs could not be ported to a different architecture

The story of gene amdahl
The story of Gene Amdahl

  • Raised on a farm without electricity until he went to high school

  • PhD from U Wisconsin-Madison

  • Became one of the top architects of the IBM/360 series

  • Had his next design rejected by IBM

  • Started his own company (Amdahl ) building big mainframes and selling them at a much lower cost than comparable IBM machines

How could they do that ii
How could they do that? (II)

  • Amdahl could undersell IBM by focusing on larger "mainframes"

  • Andahl's computers were air-cooled while IBM's water-cooled

    • "[D]ecreased installation costs by $50,000 to $250,000."


How could they do that i
How could they do that? (I)

  • IBM 360 series was first series of computers with

    • Very different capacities

    • Same instruction set

  • IBM pricing policy was keeping computer prices proportional to their capacity

    • Did not reflect proportionally lower manufacturing cost of high-end machines

The end of the story
The end of the story

  • Left Amdahl in 1979 to pursue unsuccessfully several ventures

  • Amdahl Computers is now part of Fujitsu and focuses on services

Inherent conflicts
Inherent conflicts

  • Expressiveness vs. Speed

    • CISC instructions were powerful but microcoded

  • Compactness vs. Speed

    • Many instruction sets had instructions of different length

    • Cannot know start of next instruction before decoding the opcode of current one

What is microcode
What is microcode?

  • Some machine language below the instruction set

    • Invisible to the programmer/compiler

    • Each instruction corresponded to one or more microinstructions

    • Some architectures allowed the user to program new instructions or a whole new instruction set

The 360 architecture i
The 360 architecture (I)

  • Developed in the 60’s but kept almost unchanged for 30+ years

  • Thirty-two bit words and 8-bit bytes

  • Memory was byte-addressable

    • Had 24-bit addresses restricting main memory size to 16 MB (enormous at that time!)

    • Later extended to 32 then 64 bits

The 360 architecture ii
The 360 architecture (II)

  • Instruction set included

    • 32-bit operations for scientific and engineering computing (FORTRAN)

    • Byte-oriented operations for character processing and decimal arithmetic then judged essential for business applications

  • Name of series referred to wide range of applications that could run on the machine

Ibm 360 instruction set i




IBM 360 instruction set (I)

  • Had multiple instructions formats all with

    • Mostly 8-bit opcodes

    • 16 general purpose registers

  • RR (register to register)

    • 16 bits

Ibm 360 instruction set ii






IBM 360 instruction set (II)

  • RX (register to/from indexed storage)

    • 32 bits

    • Address of memory operand was:contents of base and index registers plus12-bit displacement D

Ibm 360 instruction set iii





IBM 360 instruction set (III)

  • SI ( storage and immediate)

    • 32 bits

    • Has an 8-bit wide immediate field I

    • Address of memory operand was:contents of base register B plus12-bit displacement D

Ibm 360 instruction set iv







IBM 360 instruction set (IV)

  • SS ( storage to storage)

    • 48 bits

    • Two memory operands

      • First addresses offields of length L

Ibm 360 instruction set v




IBM 360 instruction set (V)

  • S ( storage )

    • 32 bits with a 16-bit opcode

    • Mostly for privileged instructions

Discussion i
Discussion (I)

  • Flexible and compact

    • Multiple instruction sizes

      • Must decode current instruction to know start of the next one

  • Regular design

  • Many operations can be RR, RS, RX, SI and SS (character manipulation and decimal arithmetic)

Discussion ii
Discussion (II)

  • RX format:

    • Memory address is indexed by base register and index register

      • a[i] can be decomposed into

        • Current base register

        • Offset of a[0] relative to base register

        • Index i multiplied by size of array element in index register

Discussion iii
Discussion (III)

  • Why such a complex addressing format?

    • Index register was used to access arrays

    • Base register allowed for a much shorter address field

      • 4 bits for base register + 12 bits for displacement


      • 24 bits for a full address

Mips i

  • Originally stood for Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipeline Stages

  • First RISC microprocessor

  • Development started in 1981 under John Hennessy at Stanford University

  • Started a company:MIPS Computer Systems, Inc.

Mips ii

  • Owned by SGI from 1992 to 1998

    • Until SGI switched to the Intel Itanium architecture

  • Used by used by DEC, NEC, Pyramid Technology, Siemens Nixdorf, Tandem and others during the late 80s and 90s

    • Until Intel Pentium took over

  • Now primarily used in embedded systems


  • Two versions

    • MIPS32 with 32-bit addresses (discussed here)

    • MIPS64 with 64-bit addresses

  • Both MIPS architectures have

    • Thirty-two registers (32 bits on MIPS 32)

    • A byte-addressable memory

    • Byte, half-word and word-oriented operations

Bit ordering
Bit ordering

  • All examples assume that byte-ordering islittle-endian:

    • Bits are numbered from right to left



Number representation i
Number representation (I)

  • MIPS uses two’s complement representation for negative numbers:

    • 00….0 represents 0

    • 00….1 represents 1

    • 01….1 represents 2n–1 – 1

    • 10….0 represents – 2n–1

    • 11….1 represents – 1

Two complement representation
Two-complement representation

  • Assume n-bit integers

    • All positive integers have first bit equal to zero

    • All negative integers have first bit equal to one

  • To negate an integer, we compute its complement to 2n in unsigned arithmetic


  • Assume n = 4

    • 0000, 0001, 0010, 0011, 0100, 0101, 0110 and 0111 represent integers 0 to 7

    • To find the representation of -3, we do

      • 16 -3 = 13, that is, 1101

    • More generally 1000, 1001, 1010, 1011, 1100, 1101, 1110, 1111 represent negative integers -8 to -1

Number representation ii

all zeroes


all ones


Number representation (II)

  • Can create problems when we fetch a byte or half-word into a 32 bit register

  • If we fetch the 16-bit half-word

  • we have two possible outcomes




Mips instruction set
MIPS instruction set

  • Designed for speed and prefetching ease

  • All instructions are 32-bit long

    • Five instruction formats

      • Three basic formats

        • R, I and J

      • Two floating point formats

        • FR and FJ

The r format







The R format

  • Six-bit opcode

  • R instructions have three operands

    • Five bits per register 32 registers

  • Shamt specifies a shift amount (5 bits)

  • Funct selects the specific variant of operation defined in opcode (6 bits)

    • Many R instructions have an all-zero opcode

Register naming conventions
Register naming conventions

  • $s0, $s1, …, $s7 for saved registers

    • Saved when we do a procedure call

  • $t0, …, $t9 for temporary registers

    • Not saved when you do a procedure call

  • $0 is the zero register:

    • Always contains zeroes

  • Other conventions are used for registers used in procedures calls

R format instructions i
R format instructions (I)

  • Arithmetic instructions

    • add $sa, $sb, $sc # a = b + c;

    • sub $sd, $se, $sf # d = e – f;

  • Logical instructions

    • and $sa, $sb, $sc # a = b & c;

    • or $sd, $se, $sf # d = e | f;

    • nor $sg, $sh, $si # g = ~(h | i);

    • xor $sj, $sk, $sl # j = (k&~l)|(~k&l)


  • MIPS logical instructions are bitwise operations

    • Implement bitwise & and I operations of C

  • MIPS has no negation instructions

    • Use NOR and specify register $0 as one of the two input registers

      • $0 is hard-wired to contain zero

    • nor $sk, $sl, $0 # k = ~l;

R format instructions ii
R format instructions (II)

  • More arithmetic instructions

    • addu $s1, $s2, $s3

    • subu $s1, $s2, $s3

    • Unsigned versions of add and sub

    • Multiply and divide instructions will be covered later

R format instructions iii
R format instructions (III)

  • Shift instructions

    • sll $s1, $s0, n

    • slr $s1, $s0, n

  • Shift contents of source register $s0 by n bits to the left (sll) or to the right (slr)

  • Fill the emptied bits with zero

  • Store results in destination register $s1

Notes ii
Notes (II)

  • A right shift followed by a logical and can be used to extract some specific bits

  • If we are interested in bits 14-15 of register $s0

    • We set up a register $s2 containing 011two

    • We do

      • slr $t0, $s0, 14 # use temporary register $t0

      • and $s1, $t0, $s2 # answer is in $s1

Notes iii
Notes (III)

  • Want to extract bits XY in positions 14 and 15

  • slr $t0, $s0,15

  • and $s1, $t0, $s2 # $s2 contains mask 011




R format instructions iv
R format instructions (IV)

  • Register comparison instructions

    • slt $t0, $s3, $s4

    • sltu $t0, $s3, $s4

  • Sets register $t0 to 1 if $s3 < $s4and to 0 otherwise

    • slt does a signed comparison

    • sltu does an unsigned comparison

R format instructions iv1
R format instructions (IV)

for big jumps

  • Jump instructions

    • jr $s0

      • Jump to address contained in register $s0

      • Since $s0 can contain a 32-bit address, the jump can go anywhere

    • jalr $s0, $s1

      • Jump to address contained in register $s0 and save address of next instruction in register $s1 (defaults to register 31)

The i format




The I format


  • Last field can be

    • a 16-bit displacement:Address of memory operand is the sum of the contents of register rt and this displacement

    • a 16-bit constant:Register rt can then specify a second register operand


  • I format contains instructions involving

    • One register and a memory location

    • Two registers and an immediate value

    • Two registers and a jump address relative to the current value of the program counter (PC)

  • MIPS instruction set uses the same format for three very different instruction styles

    • Simplifies decoding hardware

Register and memory instructions
Register and memory instructions

  • Transfer data

    • To a register: load

    • From a register: store

  • No arithmetic instructions as in the IBM/360 IS

    • All arithmetic and logical operations are either register to register or immediate to register

Register and memory instructions1
Register and memory instructions

  • Load instructions

    • lbu $s1, a($s2)

      • Load unsigned byte into register $s1 from memory address obtained by adding the contents of register $s2 to theaddress field a

    • lbhu $s1, a($s2)

      • Load half-word unsigned

Register and memory instructions2
Register and memory instructions

  • Load instructions (cont’d)

    • lw $s1, a($s2)

      • Load word unsigned

    • ll $t1, a($s2)

      • Load linked: used with store conditional to implement atomic locks

        • The famous spinlocks

Wait for COSC 4330

Register and memory instructions3
Register and memory instructions

  • Store instructions

    • sb $s1, a($s2)

      • Store least significant byte

    • sbh $s1, a($s2)

      • Store least significant half-word

    • sw $s1, a($s2)

      • Store word

Register and memory instructions4
Register and memory instructions

  • Store instructions (cont’d)

    • sc $t1, a($s2)

      • Store conditional

        • Always follows a load linked

        • Fails if value in memory changes since the load linked instruction

        • Saves contents of $t1 in memory and sets $t1 to one if store conditional succeeds or to zero otherwise

Wait for COSC 4330

Immediate instructions
Immediate instructions

  • Immediate value is 16-bit wide

  • addi $1, $2, n

    • Store in register $s0 the sum of the contents of register $s1 and the decimal value n

  • addiu $1, $2, n

    • Unsigned version of addi

  • andi $1, $2, n

  • ori $1, $2, n

Three missing instructions
Three missing instructions

  • No subi or subiu

    • Instead of subtracting an immediate value nwe can add a negative value –n

  • No load immediate

    • Replaced by ori with a zero value

    • ori $s0, $0, n # load value n into register $s0

↑ Typo in textbook?

Loading 32 bit constants i

16 MSB

16 LSB

Loading 32-bit constants (I)

  • lui $s0, n

    • load upper immediate

    • Loads the decimal value n into the 16 most significant bits of register $s0

lui $s0, n

Loading 32 bit constants i1

lui $s0, m

ori $s0, #0, n

16 MSB

16 LSB

Loading 32-bit constants (I)

  • Works in combination with ori

Other immediate instructions
Other immediate instructions

  • Comparison instructions

    • slti $t0, $s3, n

    • sltui $t0, $s3, n

    • Both set register $t0

      • To one if $s3 < sign extended value of n

      • To zero otherwise

    • slti does a signed comparison

    • sltui does an unsigned comparison


  • We should use immediate instructions whenever possible

    • They are faster and use one register less than the equivalent R instructions

      • To isolate bits 14-15 of register $s0, use

        • slr $t0, $s0, 14

        • and $s1, $t0, 3 # decimal 3 = binary 011

Immediate branch instructions i
Immediate branch instructions (I)

  • All immediate jump and branch instructions use a very specificaddressing scheme

    • Use the program counter as base register

      • Makes sense

      • Both register fields can be used for conditional branch instructions

Immediate branch instructions ii
Immediate branch instructions (II)

  • Immediate field contains a signed number

    • Can jump ahead or behind the address indicated by the current value of the PC + 4

  • Address is multiplied by four before being added to the value of the PC

New PC = Old PC + 4 + 4×n

Why pc 4
Why PC + 4

  • Because

    • By the time the MIPS CPU adds 4×nto the PC register, it will contain the address of the next instruction

Immediate branch instructions iii
Immediate branch instructions (III)

  • Works well because

    • PC value is a multiple of four as instructions are properly aligned at addresses that are multiple of 4

    • Solution extends the range of the jump from  215 B = 32 KB to  217 B = 128 KB

  • can use J or JR for bigger jumps

Immediate branch instructions iv
Immediate branch instructions (IV)

  • beq $s0, $1 a

    • Branch on equal

    • Jump to address computed by adding 4×a to the current value of the PC + 4 if the values of registers $s0 and $s1 are equal

  • bne $s0, $1 a

    • Branch on not equal

The j format i





The J format (I)

  • Sole operand is a 26-bit address

  • Jump instructions

    • j a

      • Unconditionally jump to a new address

    • jal a

      • Unconditionally jump to a new address and store address of next instruction in $ra

The j format i1





The J format (I)

  • Note that jalhas animplicit operand

    • Register$ra (stands forreturn address)

      • Always register 31

  • In general, implicit operands

    • Allow more compact instruction formats

    • Complicate register management

Computing the new address
Computing the new address

  • Obtained as follows

    • Bits 1:0 are zero (address is multiple of 4)

    • Bits 28:2 come from jump operand (26 bits)

    • Bits 31:29 come from PC+4

Allows to jump to anywhere in memory


  • The overall philosophy used to design the MIPS instruction set was

    • Favor simplicity and regularity

      • Only three instruction formats

    • Optimize for the more frequent cases

      • Immediate to register instructions

    • Make good compromises

Comparison with ibm 360 is

IBM 360

Variable length instructions

Sixteen GP registers

RR format has two register operands

RS format

SI format

SS format


Fixed-size instructions

Thirty-two GP registers

R format has three register operands

An option of I format

No, but the equivalent of a non-existing RI format

No equivalent

Comparison with IBM 360 IS

The stack
The stack

  • Used to store saved registers

  • LIFO structure starting at a high address value and growing downwards

  • MIPS software reserves register 29 for the stack pointer ($sp)

  • We can push registers to the stack and pop them later

The stack1


The stack

Stack pointer sp

Handling procedure calls
Handling procedure calls

  • MIPS software uses the following conventions

    • $a0, … $a3 are the four argument registers that can be used to pass parameters

    • $v0 and $v1 are the two value registers that can be used to return values

    • $ra is the register containing thereturn address

Simple procedure call i
Simple procedure call (I)

  • Before starting the new procedure, we must savethe registers used by the calling procedures

    • Not all of them

      • Save the eight registers $s0, $s1, …, $s7

      • Do not save the ten temporary registers$t0, …, $t9

  • Must also restore these registers when we exit the procedure

Simple procedure call ii
Simple procedure call (II)

  • At call time

    • addi $sp, $sp, -32 # eight times four bytessw $s7, 28($sp)sw $s6, 24($sp)sw $s5, 20($sp)sw $s4, 16($sp)sw $s3, 12($sp)sw $s2, 8($sp)sw $s1, 4($sp)sw $s0, 0($sp

Reality Check:We will only save the

registers that will bereused by the callee

Simple procedure call iii
Simple procedure call (III)

  • At return time

    • lw $s0, 0($sp) # restore the registers $s0 to $s7lw $s1, 4($sp)lw $s2, 8($sp)lw $s3, 12($sp)lw $s4, 16($sp)lw $s5, 20($sp)lw $s6, 24($sp)lw $s7, 28($sp)addi $sp, $sp, 32 # eight times four bytes

Nested procedures i
Nested procedures (I)

  • Procedures that call other procedures

    • Including themselves: recursive procedures

  • Likely to reuse argument registers and temporary registers

  • Caller will save the argument registers and temporary registers it will need after the call

  • Callee will save the saved registers of the caller before reusing them

Nested procedures ii
Nested procedures (II)

  • All saved registers are restored when the procedure returns and the stack is shrunk

The assembler i
The assembler (I)

  • Helps the programmer with

    • Symbolic names

      • Arguments of jump and branch instructions are labels rather than numerical constants

        beq $s0, $s1 done


        done: …

The assembler ii
The assembler (II)

  • Pseudo-instructions

    • To reserve memory locations for data

    • To create user-friendly specialized versionsof very general instructions

      • bzero $s0, address


      • beq $s0, $0, address

A review question
A review question

Which MIPS instructions involve

  • Three explicit operands?

  • Two explicit operands?

  • One explicit operand?

Answer i
Answer (I)

  • Three explicit operands:

    • All R format instructions but jr and jalr

    • All I format instructions involving an immediate value but lui

    • All I format instructions involving a conditional branch

Answer ii
Answer (II)

  • Two explicit operands:

    • All I format instructions involving a load or a store

    • Load upper immediate(lui)

    • Jump and link to register (jalr)

Answer iii
Answer (III)

  • One explicit operand:

    • Jump register instruction (jr)

    • Both J format instructions

      • jal has an implicit second operand that it uses to store the return address ($ra)

Another risc is arm i
Another RISC IS: ARM (I)

  • ARM stands for Advanced RISC Machine

  • Originally developed as a CPU architecture for a desktop computer manufactured by Acorn in Britain

    • Now dominates the embedded system market

  • Company has no foundry

    • It licenses its products to manufacturers

Another risc is arm ii
Another RISC IS: ARM (II)

  • Used in cell phones, embedded systems, …

  • Same 32-bit instruction formats

  • Only 8 registers

  • Nine addressing modes

    • Including autoincrement

  • Branches use condition codes of arithmetic unit

Another risc is arm
Another RISC IS: ARM

  • All instructions have a 4-bit condition code allowing their conditional execution

    • Claimed to faster than using a branch

  • NO zero register:

    • Includes instructions like logical not, load immediate, move (R to R)

The x86 instruction set i
The x86 instruction set (I)

  • Not the result of a well-thought design process

    • Evolved over the years

  • 8086 was the first x86 processor architecture

    • Announced in 1978

    • Sixteen-bit architecture

    • Assembly language-compatible extension to Intel 8080 (8-bit microprocessor)

The x86 instruction set ii
The x86 instruction set (II)

  • New instructions were added over the years, mostly by Intel , but also by AMD

    • Floating-point instructions

    • Multimedia instructions

    • More floating-point instructions

    • Vector computing

  • 80836 was the first 32-bit processor

    • Introduced more interesting instructions

The x86 instruction set iii
The x86 instruction set (III)

  • AMD extended the x86 architecture to 64-bit address space and registers in 2003

  • Intel followed AMD’s lead the next year

The x86 instruction set iv
The x86 instruction set (IV)

  • The result is a huge instruction set combining

    • Old instructions kept to insure backward compatibility

      • “Golden handcuff”

    • Newer 32-bit instructions that are in use today

A curious tradeoff
A curious tradeoff

  • Complexity of x86 instruction set

    • Complicates the design of x86 microprocessors

      • More work for Intel and AMD architects

    • Effectively prevents other manufacturers to design and sell x86-compatible microprocessors

  • A mixed blessing for the duopoly Intel/AMD

Stack oriented architectures i
Stack-oriented architectures (I)

  • A rarity in microprocessor architecture

    • Bad solution

  • Used in many interpreted languages

    • Java virtual machine, Python

    • Big exceptions are Dalvik and Lua

      • Register-based virtual machines

Interpreted vs compiled i
Interpreted vs. Compiled (I)

  • Compiled language

  • Machine code is directly executable




Interpreted vs compiled ii
Interpreted vs. Compiled (II)

  • Interpreted language








Stack oriented architectures ii
Stack-oriented architectures (II)

  • Named registers replaced by a stack of registers

  • Two basic operations:

    • PUSH <address>push on stack contents of memory address

    • POP <address>pop top of stack and store it at specified memory address

Stack oriented architecture iii




Stack-oriented architecture (III)

  • Binary arithmetic and logical operations

    • Have both operands on the top of the stack

    • Replace them by the result

  • Example:



  • Advantages

    • Simple compilers and interpreters

    • Very compact object code

  • Main disadvantage

    • More memory references

      • Cannot save partial results into a register

Good design principles i
Good design principles (I)

  • Simplicity favors regularity

    • As few instruction formats as possible for easier decoding

  • Smaller is faster

    • No complicated instructions

Good design principles ii
Good design principles (II)

  • We should make the common case faster

    • PC-relative addressing for branches

  • Good design requires good compromises

    • Limiting address displacements and immediate values to 16 bits ensures that all instructions can fit in a 32-bit word

    • Weird J format addressing mode

Myths i
Myths (I)

  • Adding more powerful instructions will increase performance

    • IBM 360 has an instruction saving multiple registers

    • DEC VAX has an instruction computing polynomial terms

  • These complex instructions limit pipelining options

Myths ii
Myths (II)

  • Writing programs in assembly language produces faster code than that generated by a compiler

    • Compilers are now better than humans for register allocations

  • In addition, programs written in assembly language cannot be ported to other CPU architectures

    • Think of Macintosh programs

Myths iii
Myths (III)

  • Backward compatibility prevents instruction sets from evolving

    • Not true for x86 architecture

      • Can add new instructions

      • Write compilers that avoid the older instructions