It is a course of Electronic engineering
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Electronic engineering
Electronic engineering

Syllabus edit

EE 311

Lectures edit

Introduction to Microprocessor Hardware

It is evidently impossible to attempt to review in detail the very many different types of processor and processor hardware available today and therefore this course will necessarily deal with either (and mainly) general principles which can be quickly particularised to most systems, or with some specific examples mainly aimed at our specific system. I do hope however to discuss some other systems as they are relevant to our lectures and for variety.


Before we go further, a word on terminology - a "bit" (binary digit) is a single logical entity and may either be TRUE or FALSE, or 0 or 1 for short. A "byte" is conventionally 8 bits and we designate for this course bit 0 to be the least-significant bit and bit 7 to be the most significant. Please note that this is not universal and some people do it the other way around. A "word" is a collection of bits and may or may not be an integer number of bytes long. It needs a qualifier such as "16-bit word". In this course we will take the term "word" without a qualifier as a "16-bit word". There is a term for 4 bits called a "nibble" which is sometimes useful but not everybody recognizes it.

Simple Systems

A computer in general consists of a set of objects in some sort of network, each of which may itself be a computer. However, microprocessor systems tend to be a little simpler in that they have one Central Processor Unit (CPU), which bosses the operation, and other units which are its subordinates. Subordinates have however been known to revolt. The simplest diagram of a system is as follows: (Please note that this diagram has been drawn for simplicity, not for truth as we shall see later) The CPU fetches an entity from the memory by providing it with an address and receiving "data" back. Since the busses over which communication occurs are logical networks we can describe both the address and the "data" as either collections of logical signals or group them together as numbers. For the computer, the most logical number system is binary so that the computer fetches 10010001 from 1110000010100000 (assuming 8-bit data and 16-bit address - see below). However this is not very convenient for us as we would tend to say that it fetches 145 from address 57504. In order to get the two systems (human and computer) to discuss things in a reasonably compact form, we compromise on hexadecimal notation where each group of 4 bits from the binary representation is represented by a single alphanumeric according to the value of the 4-bit number. 0-9 are the digits 0-9 and 10-15 are the letters A-F. Thus our fetch now becomes 91(h) from E0A0(h), using the (h) notation to eliminate any ambiguity. (There are many other ways of denoting hexadecimal notation - Turbo Pascal uses a "$" sign, eg $E0A0, and the C language uses "0x" as a leader, eg 0xE0A0) The advantages of hex notation are compactness, reasonable ease of arithmetic, and easy expansion to the binary where necessary (but hopefully not often). (There is also the octal system of notation which groups things together in threes but we shall not use that here) The entity that a computer fetches is a bit pattern, however, it may be interpreted by the system in various ways depending upon the "context", or in other words, what the CPU thought it was getting. Thus if a 6809 system fetches 4F(h), it may interpret that as CLRA (clear register A) if it was expecting an instruction, as data if it expected data, or as another part of an instruction if it is halfway through a multi-byte instruction. The most common way in which you expect "context" is as follows: Sitting at a computer thinking about a program you might want to look at the set of instructions you gave the compiler - that might be "prog.cpp" - so you "type prog.cpp" and expect to see text. The computer expects to get executable instructions for a program and so its "version" of the program is in "prog.exe". Now if you try "type prog.exe" you will be confused and if the computer tries to execute "prog.cpp" it will be confused. Both files are just collections of bits and bytes - they can even be said to represent that same thing - but you and the computer were going to interpret them in a particular context. All bit patterns are interpreted according to the context. We shall see later that even common numbers have at least three different representations depending upon the context (character, integer or real). In a normal machine, there is a differentiation in the designer's mind between code (that is, the program) and data which is the stuff the program acts on. However as we have seen above the distinction is in the designer's mind, not the computer's which will happily attempt to execute data as code and vice versa.

ROM, RAM and Other Memory

In order to prevent a run-away machine from modifying its program and in order to avoid reloading the program every time the thing is turned on some memory is designed as Read-Only Memory (ROM) in the sense that the computer is unable to change it. (There must be some ultimate way of changing it otherwise things get difficult.) Some read-only memory is sufficiently standard to warrant manufacturing "en masse", e.g. the dot patterns for an alpha-numeric display, but mostly the memory may be written by special equipment (Programmable, Read-Only Memory (PROM)) and may further be erasable by similarly specialized equipment (EPROM). Newer developments allow the machine to change the memory with difficulty (EEPROM). Thus a simple microprocessor system dedicated to a single task may have its program stored in EPROM and some RAM (Random Access Memory or more correctly Read-Write Memory) for use by the program. Languages and Other Issues Armed with our knowledge of hardware and our software "hooks", or bridges, we can conquer the world in a high-level language. Why not assembler or machine code? - Well the answer to that is that in a high-level language all the useful tools are available and the code is much more readable. Which is better? CLRA STA $0007 or A = 0 The rule of thumb I was taught was that a good programmer should produce about 100 lines of documented, tested code per day on average. Now 100 lines of C does much more than 100 lines of assembler so that productivity is higher. I gratefully dropped machine-code some years ago when I made this discovery. I have more recently been informed that the benchmark is now ten lines of code which has implications I don’t even want to think about!! Of course, the advent of graphical languages such as LabVIEW makes the computation of “lines of code/day” an extremely tenuous thing, but the principle still remains that the higher the level of the language, the more you can get done in a finite time. High-level languages isolate you from the machine architecture which makes the program somewhat portable - not wholly portable, but better than nothing.

Having said all that, I admit that there are a number of occasions when assembler code is important. These are: When the language won't support what you want to do Some languages can't support some operations. Interrupt handling routines are a case in point that can be handled effectively by very few languages. When there is a special instruction that is very useful A case in point is an instruction to reverse the bits in a word. This turns out to be handy in a Fourier transform routine, is lousy (and slow) to do in high-level language but is dandy if there is a machine instruction to do it. In this case, write a short (I said SHORT) piece of assembler code as a subroutine to do the job and flee back to high-level as soon as possible. When speed is of the essence and you can't go any faster the first defense for getting speed is to check out the algorithm for effectiveness. The second defense is to check out the coding for efficiency and the third defense is to buy the fastest machine possible. Only if all the above fails should you re-code the speed-critical portion of your code in the assembler again by putting it in a short (remember I said SHORT) subroutine. When doing DSP programming this is an exotic field, but one which we get into in the course. Since DSP programming is tricky and extremely speed-critical, but generally short - it is a candidate for assembler programming.

Reference books edit

Microprocessor Architecture Programming and Applications with the 8085 by Ramesh S Gaonkar

Online resources edit

"The course covers the design of real-time digital systems using microprocessor-based embedded controllers to design, debug, and construct several systems that illustrate and employ digital system design techniques. The content focuses on laboratory work. The lectures are used primarily for the introduction of examples, description of specific modules to be designed, and instruction in the hardware and high-level design tools to be employed."

Learning projects edit

1. Design a microprocessor-based EPROM Programmer to program 2716. The EPROM can be programmed by applying 25V at VPP and 5V at OE pin. Initially, all data of EPROM will be 1's and the user should make the bits zero selectively. The bit parallel data is applied to the data output pins(D0-D7). The address for the EPROM is provided through the address pins. To program the address of each location to be programmed should be stable for 55ms. When address and data are stable, a 50ms active high pulse is applied to CE input.

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