Computer Architecture Treatises: A Changing Of The Guard?
Brian Dipert - January 6, 2007
ACM Queue recently published an excellent interview with John Hennessy and David Patterson, technology pioneers at (respectively) Stanford and UC Berkeley and co-authors of the seminal reference, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach. In the discussion, Hennessy and Patterson touch on a number of current developments and future trends, notably the challenge of creating efficient and effective silicon and software in the burgeoning multi-core processor era. The ACM Queue writeup is well worth the few minutes it'll take for you to peruse it; highly recommended.
Coincidentally, another microprocessor tome has finally gone to print, after many years' worth of development. It's Inside The Machine: An Illustrated Introduction to Microprocessors and Computer Architecture (ISBN 1-59327-104-2) by Jon 'Hannibal' Stokes. Jon is co-founder and senior CPU editor at Ars Technica, an online resource that I regularly leverage and reference in my own writeups. The author takes an interesting tack with his project; it includes the obligatory generic material on topics such as pipelining, cache and main memory controllers, superscalar and out-of-order execution, branch prediction, and 32-vs-64 bit and RISC-vs-CISC, but Jon has also included a number of illustrated example-of-concept chapters that cover multiple generations' worth of x86 and PowerPC CPUs. Check out the Table of Contents.
From my online monitoring of Ars Technica, I know that Jon undertook a last-minute 'push' which enabled him to incorporate material on Intel's latest Core microarchitecture, so the book should be quite up-to-date….at least until the next ISSCC, that is. And if you'd prefer a test-drive prior to plunking down your $50, the publisher (No Starch Press) lets you peruse Chapter 4 (PDF) free of charge. Jon humbly positions Inside the Machine as a companion to Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, versus a competitor. Yet I'd suggest that unless (for example) you're studying microprocessor architecture in pursuit of an advanced technical degree (which is where I first encountered Hennessy and Patterson), and particularly if you're considering implementing one of AMD, IBM, Intel or Motorola's CPU architectures in your next system design, Inside the Machine will be more than sufficient to meet your needs.