Selecting a processor for teaching computer architecture
Undergraduate programs in computer science are taught in many universities throughout the world. Most of these courses include a unit on computer architecture. Since computer architecture is concerned with instruction set construction and interpretation, the teacher has to decide whether to base the course on one or more real architectures or whether to use a hypothetical architecture. Although some choose a hypothetical processor, many prefer to use a real, commercially available device as a vehicle for introducing the basic principles of this subject. This article discusses some of the issues involved in selecting a suitable processor for use in teaching and describes two specific microprocessors. One, the 68K family, is a mainstream CISC device and one, the ARM family, a modern RISC processor. Both these processors have particular advantages when they are used to teach computer architecture.