Structured Computer Organization (6th Edition)

Category: Hardware & DIY
Author: Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Todd Austin
This Month Stack Overflow 1


by anonymous   2019-01-13
  • A byte is a memory unit for storage
  • A memory chip is full of such bytes.

Memory units are addressable. That is the only way we can use memory.

In reality, memory is only byte addressable. It means:

  • A binary address always points to a single byte only.
  • A word is just a group of bytes2, 4, 8 depending upon the data bus size of the CPU.

To understand the memory operation fully, you must be familiar with the various registers of the CPU and the memory ports of the RAM. I assume you know their meaning:

  • MAR(memory address register)
  • MDR(memory data register)
  • PC(program counter register)
  • MBR(memory buffer register)

RAM has two kinds of memory ports:

  1. 32-bits for data/addresses
  2. 8-bit for OPCODE.

Suppose CPU wants to read a word (say 4 bytes) from the address xyz onwards. CPU would put the address on the MAR, sends a memory read signal to the memory controller chip. On receiving the address and read signal, memory controller would connect the data bus to 32-bit port and 4 bytes starting from the address xyz would flow out of the port to the MDR.

If the CPU wants to fetch the next instruction, it would put the address onto the PC register and sends a fetch signal to the memory controller. On receiving the address and fetch signal, memory controller would connect the data bus to 8-bit port and a single byte long opcode located at the address received would flow out of the RAM into the CPU's MDR.

So that is what it means when we say a certain register is memory addressable or byte addressable. Now what will happen when you put, say decimal 2 in binary on the MAR with an intention to read the word 2, not (byte no 2)?

Word no 2 means bytes 4, 5, 6, 7 for 32-bit machine. In real physical memory is byte addressable only. So there is a trick to handle word addressing.

When MAR is placed on the address bus, its 32-bits do not map onto the 32 address lines(0-31 respectively). Instead, MAR bit 0 is wired to address bus line 2, MAR bit 1 is wired to address bus line 3 and so on. The upper 2 bits of MAR are discarded since they are only needed for word addresses above 2^32 none of which are legal for our 32 bit machine.
Using this mapping, when MAR is 1, address 4 is put on the bus, when MAR is 2, address 8 is put on the bus and so forth.

It is a bit difficult in the beginning to understand. I learnt it from Andrew Tanenbaums's structured computer organisation.

by joezydeco   2017-09-04
I agree with jrowley, and here are some resources I can recommend. These are college textbooks, not websites.

First, some EE. Horowitz & Hill's "The Art of Electronics" is the gold standard.

...or Tannenbaum's "Stuctured Computer Organization"