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Chapter 22

Design of the B 5000 system1

William Lonergan / Paul King

Computing systems have conventionally been designed via the 'hardware' route. Subsequent to design, these systems have been handed over to programming systems people for the development of a programming package to facilitate the use of the hardware. In contrast to this, the B 5000 system was designed from the start as a total hardware-software system. The assumption was made that higher level programming languages, such as ALGOL, should be used to the virtual exclusion of machine language programming, and that the system should largely be used to control its own operation. A hardware-free notation was utilized to design a processor with the desired word and symbol manipulative capabilities. Subsequently this model was translated into hardware specifications at which time cost constraints were considered.

Design objectives

The fundamental design objective of the B 5000 system was the reduction of total problem through-put time. A second major objective was facilitation of changes both in programs and system configurations. Toward these objectives the following aspects of the total computer utilization problem were considered:

Statement of problems in higher-level machine-independent languages; efficiency of compilation of machine language; speed of compilation of machine language; program debugging in higher- level languages; problem set-up and load time; efficiency of system operation; ease of maintaining and making changes in existing programs, and ease of reprogramming when changes are made in a system configuration.

Design criteria

Early in the design phase of the B 5000 system the following principles were established and adopted:

Program should be independent of its location and unmodified as stored at object time; data should be independent of its location; addressing of memory within a program should take advantage of contextual addressing schemes to reduce redundancy; provisions should be made for the generalized handling of indexing and subroutines; a full complement of logical, relational and control operators should b provided to enable efficient translation of higher-level source languages such as ALGOL and COBOL; pro gram syntax should permit an almost mechanical translation from source languages into efficient machine code; facilities should be provided to permit the system to largely control its own operation; input-output operations should be divorced from processing and should be handled by an operating system; multi-programming and true parallel processing (requires multiple processors) should be facilitated, and changes in system configuration (within certain broad limitations) should not require reprogramming.

System organization

The B 5000 system achieves its unique physical and operational modularity through the use of electronic switches which function logically like telephone crossbar switches. Figure 1 depicts the basic organization of the system as well as showing a maximum system.

Master control program

A master control program will be provided with the B 5000 system. It will be stored on a portion of the magnetic drum. During normal operations, a small portion of the MCP will be contained in core memory. This portion will handle a large percentage of recurrent system operations. Other segments of the MCP will be called in from the magnetic drum, from time to time, as they are required to handle less frequently-occurring events, or system situations. Whenever the system is executing the master control program, it is said to be in the Control State. All entries to the Control State are made via 'interrupts.' A special operation is provided, which can only be executed when the system is in the Control State, to permit control to return to the object program it was executing at the time the 'interrupt' occurred.

The following are a few typical occurrences which cause an automatic 'interrupt' in the system: An input-output channel is

1Datamation, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 28-32, May, 1961.


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