1 Fundamentals of Computer Design
And now for something completely different.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
The Task of a Computer Designer
Cost, Price and their Trends
Measuring and Reporting Performance
Quantitative Principles of Computer Design
Putting It All Together: Performance and Price-Performance
Another View: Power Consumption and Efficiency as the Metric
Fallacies and Pitfalls
Historical Perspective and References
Computer technology has made incredible progress in the roughly 55 years since
the first general-purpose electronic computer was created. Today, less than a
thousand dollars will purchase a personal computer that has more performance,
more main memory, and more disk storage than a computer bought in 1980 for
$1 million. This rapid rate of improvement has come both from advances in the
technology used to build computers and from innovation in computer design.
Although technological improvements have been fairly steady, progress aris-
ing from better computer architectures has been much less consistent. During the
first 25 years of electronic computers, both forces made a major contribution; but
beginning in about 1970, computer designers became largely dependent upon in-
tegrated circuit technology. During the 1970s, performance continued to improve
at about 25% to 30% per year for the mainframes and minicomputers that domi-
nated the industry.
The late 1970s saw the emergence of the microprocessor. The ability of the
microprocessor to ride the improvements in integrated circuit technology more
closely than the less integrated mainframes and minicomputers led to a higher
rate of improvement—roughly 35% growth per year in performance.
Chapter 1 Fundamentals of Computer Design
This growth rate, combined with the cost advantages of a mass-produced
microprocessor, led to an increasing fraction of the computer business being
based on micro