Re: Architecture / Instruction Set / Language co-design.

Mark Thorson <>
Mon, 18 Jul 2011 14:26:13 -0800

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Re: Architecture / Instruction Set / Language co-design. (Mark Thorson) (2011-07-18)
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From: Mark Thorson <>
Newsgroups: comp.arch,comp.compilers,alt.folklore.computers
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2011 14:26:13 -0800
Organization: none
References: <>
Keywords: architecture
Posted-Date: 19 Jul 2011 01:46:14 EDT

Roberto Waltman wrote:
> Recently I've become (very) interested in Wirth's Lilith/Modula-2
> workstation, which leads me to ask:
> What other systems were developed in a similar fashion?
> That is, to support mainly one language with the language guiding the
> architectural design.

It could be argued that the National Semiconductor NS16032 (later
renamed NS32016) qualifies. The designers Les Kohn and Dan O'Dowd
started with an instruction set more-or-less based on the VAX and
pared it down to what they considered a minimum. Dan wrote a Pascal
compiler that guided the design of the architecture in the sense that
every time the chip designers in Israel asked whether they could
delete a feature Les would turn to Dan and ask how that would affect
the compiler. That chip was intended to be a general-purpose
architecture, but the compiler guided decisions on what features were

Four instructions were deleted relatively late in the design process,
and you can see the places where they would have been if you look at
any early 32000 family die. There are four clear stripes that span
the microcode ROM. I believe these are visible on all 32000 family
devices through the NS32332. If I remember correctly, the CPU was
reimplemented in the NS32532, at which point the stripes disappeared.

[Too bad they didn't have time to debug the chip before they shipped
it. The NS chips, at least the early ones, were so buggy as to be
almost unusable. -John]

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