Computation Structures (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
||Author: Stephen A. Ward, Robert H. Halstead|
List Price: $100.00
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Publisher: MIT Press (13 December, 1989)
Sales Rank: 489,973
Average Customer Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Customer ReviewsRating: 5 out of 5
This book is quite idiosyncratic in its kind. The content is quite theoretic, so that probably it won't be the best choice for more pragmatic and practice-oriented courses, for which the two books from Patterson-Hennessy, e.g., will be more suited. However, the value of this book lays in the shocking amount of knowledge it carries. This is the classic gap-filling book: my opinion is that many CS student of us that will read this book page by page, will discover that they really didn't know something they thought they knew instead. This is simply because the discussion is organic and continuos from the start to the end, and the writing is never too hard, so that any gap will easily show itself during the reading.
Have a look at the table of contents. It starts from digital logic basics and it ends at the Interrupts chapter (this means, almost, operating systems). The distance seems to be prohibitive, but the path traced by prof. Ward and Halstead is remarkably solid and meaningful. Once basic logic circuits blocks are covered, it leads to computation issues (from FSM to Turing Machines), passing from performance considerations (e.g. pipelining) and memory hierarchies (cache memory is extensively covered).
Two chapters are devoted to milestone architectures: the S machine and the G machine. Such a thorough coverage on these two machines is something I've not found in other books.
The chapters on Processes, Processor Multiplexing, Processes Synchronization and Interrupts are good and at the level of an OS course. The astonishing thing is that the background to face these issues is well built before (again, recall that the book starts from basic Logic Levels !).
This book has been a very worthy read. My course used materials from different books, internet resources and my instructor's knowledge. The instructor itself suggested us to give the book a complete read when we had time (we didn't cover all the topics of the book) because we would have really learned important things. I've not done it completely, but the more I do it, the more I agree.
Rating: 2 out of 5
A mediocre introduction with many example architectures.
Ward presents several computer architectures, exploring details from processor implementation to mulit-processor cache coherency issues. It was formerly a required text in 6.004, but as the course evolved, the book became less and less applicable. The book is now quite old and does not explore contemporary issues in computer architecture.
Many pages are devoted to theoretical arguments with few real-world examples (i.e., case studies). The writing is direct but uninspired.
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