What Is Meant by Computer Architecture?

Computer architecture comprises rules, methods, and procedures that describe the execution and functionality of the entire computer system. In general terms, computer architecture refers to how a computer system is designed using compatible technologies. This article will tell you how computer architecture is classified into a disciplinary method.

History of Computer Architecture

The term architecture in computer literature signifies the efforts of Sir Lyle R. Johnson and Sir Frederick P. Brooks, members of the Machine Organization department, in 1959. Sir Johnson noted his description of formats, instruction types, hardware limitations, along with speed improvements. These were at the level of system architecture, a term that is more useful than machine organization. Succeedingly, a computer user can use that term in many less precise methods.

Earlier, computer architects designed computer architecture on paper. It was then directly built into a final hardware form. Later, they assembled computer architecture designs materially in the form of transistor-transistor logic (TTL) computers. By the 1990s, new computer architectures are typically built, examined, and tweaked inside another computer architecture, in a computer architecture simulator, or the interior part of an FPGA, as a microprocessor before perpetrating to the ultimate hardware form.

Types of Computer Architecture

Here are the various categories of architecture that exist in our computer systems.
  • Von-Neumann Architecture
  • Harvard Architecture
  • Instruction Set Architecture
  • Micro-architecture
  • System Design

Von-Neumann Architecture (Neumann Model or Princeton Architecture)

John von Neumann coined and developed this architecture. The computer we are using nowadays is based on the von Neumann architecture. It has some concepts. It is also known as Princeton architecture. It renders a unique design for the electronic digital systems having the following components:

  • A Central Processing Unit (CPU) with arithmetic and logic unit (ALU) and processors with attached registers.
  • A memory that can store data and instructions.
  • External mass storage or secondary storage.
  • A Control Unit (CU) with the ability to hold instructions in the program counter (PC) or instruction register (IR).
  • Input and output mechanisms and peripherals.

The von Neumann design thus constitutes the foundation of modern computing. The Harvard architecture, a similar model, had committed data addresses and buses for reading and writing to memory. It wins because von Neumann's architecture was easier to execute in real hardware.

Harvard Architecture

Harvard Architecture consists of code and data laid in distinct memory sections. It requires a separate memory block for data and instruction. It has solely contained data storage within the Central Processing Unit (CPU). A single collection of clock cycles is needed. Data accessibility in one memory is done by a single memory location in the case of Harvard architecture.

One typical example is the Punch card. Moreover, modern computers may have the latest CPU processes for both methods but disparate them in a hardware design.

Instruction Set Architecture

Another notable digital computer architecture is the Instruction Set Architecture. The architecture holds a collection of instructions that the processor renders and surmises. It consists of two instruction sets: RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) and CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer).

It enables versatile implementations of an ISA; commonly differ in features such as performance, physical size, and monetary price. It empowers the evolution of the micro-architectures, implementing ISA as an exclusive, higher-performance system that can run software on preceding generations of execution.


Micro-architecture is the structural design of a microprocessor. This computer organization leverages a method where the instruction set architecture holds a built-in processor. Engineers and hardware scientists implement instruction set architecture (ISA) with various micro-architectures that vary because of changing technology. It includes the technologies used, resources, and methods. Using this, the processors physically devised to administer a particular instruction set.

Simply, it is a logical form of all electronic elements and data pathways present in the microprocessor, designed in a specific way. It allows for the optimal completion of instructions. In academe, it is called computer organization.

System Design

System design itself defines a design that can serve user requirements like system architecture, computer modules having various interfaces, and data management within a system. The term product development is connective to the system design. It is the process by which we can take marketing information to create a product design.

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