Harvard Architecture - Modern Uses of The Harvard Architecture

Modern Uses of The Harvard Architecture

The principal advantage of the pure Harvard architecture—simultaneous access to more than one memory system—has been reduced by modified Harvard processors using modern CPU cache systems. Relatively pure Harvard architecture machines are used mostly in applications where tradeoffs, such as the cost and power savings from omitting caches, outweigh the programming penalties from having distinct code and data address spaces.

  • Digital signal processors (DSPs) generally execute small, highly optimized audio or video processing algorithms. They avoid caches because their behavior must be extremely reproducible. The difficulties of coping with multiple address spaces are of secondary concern to speed of execution. As a result, some DSPs have multiple data memories in distinct address spaces to facilitate SIMD and VLIW processing. Texas Instruments TMS320 C55x processors, as one example, have multiple parallel data buses (two write, three read) and one instruction bus.
  • Microcontrollers are characterized by having small amounts of program (flash memory) and data (SRAM) memory, with no cache, and take advantage of the Harvard architecture to speed processing by concurrent instruction and data access. The separate storage means the program and data memories can have different bit widths, for example using 16-bit wide instructions and 8-bit wide data. They also mean that instruction prefetch can be performed in parallel with other activities. Examples include, the AVR by Atmel Corp, the PIC by Microchip Technology, Inc. and the ARM Cortex-M3 processor (not all ARM chips have Harvard architecture).

Even in these cases, it is common to have special instructions to access program memory as data for read-only tables, or for reprogramming.

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