Computer architecture refers to the logic used in the most basic of circuits in order to allow the machine to perform tasks. Major components of computer architecture include memory organization, instruction sets, pipelines, computer processing units and microprocessors. An overview of computer architecture covers simple versions of these components; you can then extrapolate the concepts to understand how a fully functioning computer works. Knowledge of the basics of computer architecture enables you to better understand how computer languages work with the hardware to complete tasks.
Study the diagram of the basic organization structure of a processing unit. A processor has a section of general registers that link to the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) to perform logic operations. Additional registers include the flag bit register, accumulators, pointers and counters. Buffers carry instructions, data and data addresses from the outside busses to the registers and ALU.
Study the primary computer architecture diagram to learn where the processing unit (CPU) fits in to the big picture. The CPU connects to the memory, hard disk, input and output ports through the address bus. The keyboard and mouse serve as input devices while the monitor and printer server as output devices. The input and output devices as well as the memory and hard disk send instructions and information to the CPU through the data and control busses.
Practice the basic components of computer logic. Basic decision points, or gate, include the "and", "or" and inverter gates. A nand gate combines an "and" gate with an inverter and a nor gate combines an "or" gate with an inverter. Gates can be combined in logical units called multiplexers and demultiplexers.
Learn the basics of memory design. Smaller memory caches contain frequently accessed data. The system stores instructions and data that will likely be used around the same time in order to reduce access time and improve speed.
Review the basic processor instruction set. Instruction sets differ from processor to processor but have a similar structure. Instruction sets contain instructions such as add, move, subtract, multiply and divide, logical "and", logical "or" and branching instructions to enable the program to have loops. An instruction can contain several operands and manipulates data from the accumulator and other registers.
Learn about pipelining and multitasking. Pipelining allows a processor to overlap different instructions instead of executing them individually. This increases the number of instructions that the processor can handle in a given time. Each pipeline is divided into several stages and each stage should be long enough to let a part of an instruction complete. Pipelines can slow execution speed if not properly organized.