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DLX
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DLX

The DLX is a RISC microprocessor design by John Hennessy and David Patterson, the principle designers of the MIPS and the Berkeley RISC designs (respectively), the two benchmark examples of RISC design. The DLX is essentially a cleaned up and simplified MIPS with a simple 32-bit load/store architecture. Intended primarily for teaching purposes, the DLX design is widely used in university-level computer architechture courses.

DLX instructions can be broken down into three types, R-type, I-type and J-type. R-type instructions are pure register instructions, with an operand and three registers contained in the 32-bit word. I-type instructions are similar, but use include a single register only, and use the 16-bits used to indicate the other two registers in the R-type to hold an immediate value. Finally J-type instructions are jumps, containing an operand and a 26-bit address.

Instructions are 6-bits in length, for a total of 64 possible basic instructions. 4-bits are needed to select one of sixteen registers. In the case of R-type instructions this means that only 18-bits of the 32-bit word are used, which allows the lower 6-bits to be used as "extended instructions". This allows the DLX to support more than 64 instructions, as long as those instructions work purely on registers. This is useful for things like FPU support.

The DLX, like the MIPS design, bases its performance on the use of an instruction pipeline. In the DLX design this is a fairly simple one, "classic" RISC in concept. The pipeline contains five stages:

typically referred to as "the load unit" in modern terminology

this unit gets instruction from IF, and extracts opcode and operand from that instruction. It also retrieves register values if requested by the operation.

runs the instructions, typically referred to as the ALU in modern terminology

the MEM unit fetches data from main memory, under the control of the instructions from ID and EX.

typically referred to as "the store unit" in modern terminology.

In the original MIPS design one of the methods used to gain performance was to force all instructions to complete in one cycle, forcing the compiler to insert "noops" in cases where the instruction would definitely take longer, as in memory access for instance.

In the DLX design a more modern approach to long instructions was used, using a data-forwarding system and reordering instructions. In this case the longer instructions are "stalled" in their functional units, and then re-insterted into the instruction stream when they do complete. Externally it appears execution occurred linearly.

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