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1. Introduction

What is the Transputer? Top

The Transputer is a computer on a single chip, meant for embedded applications. It is used in hand held devices such as mobile phones and GPS positioning systems. It doesn't have a screen, keyboard, mouse, etc, but it does have a processor, some memory, and some I/O ports. It was designed and made by the Inmos company, now taken over by SGS Thompson.

The Transputer is a good computer to look at because on the one hand it is real, modern and in common use, and on the other it has a reasonably simple instruction set. David May, head of department of the Bristol University Computer Science department, was a major driving force behind the Transputer, and was responsible for designing its instruction set.

Because the Transputer is intended to be built into hand-held gadgets, the instruction set is designed to be compact so that large programs can fit into small amounts of memory. It is also simple, so that there is room on the Transputer chip for a few K of memory, high speed input/output links to other devices, and support for multiple processes. Despite its relative simplicity, the Transputer is still a complete processor, and rivals much more complicated processors in its expressiveness. In particular it supports graphics manipulation and multiple processes. In other words, it has a mini operating system built in.

The Transputer's instruction set is designed to be robust, so that programs still work if moved to different places in memory, or if moved onto more advanced versions of the Transputer, with a larger word size for example.

As the Transputer is used for embedded applications rather than PCs, information about it is a bit hard to come by. There is a book called "Transputer Instruction Set" written by Inmos and published by Prentice Hall, but it is a technical manual intended for compiler writers, so it is only for those with a strong interest.

Downloading the Transputer Simulator Top

Donwload the following files into the same directory, then compille with javac and then run with java Transputer

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Copyright 1998 University of Bristol. All rights reserved.
Author: Ian Holyer
Last modified: 14 Sep 1998 11:31
Authored in CALnet