This book is an introduction to computers that fills the gap between classic and challenging books like Hennesy and Patterson's, and the large number of "How Your Computer Works" books that are too basic for engineers.
The first four chapters lay the conceptual groundwork for later chapters' studies of real-world microprocessors. These chapters use a simplified example processor, the DLW, to illustrate basic and intermediate concepts like the instructions/data distinction, assembly language programming, superscalar execution, pipelining, the programming model, and machine language. This section is essential reading for those who are new to the world of microprocessors.
The middle section of the book consists of detailed studies of two popular desktop processor lines: the Pentium line from Intel and the PowerPC from IBM and Motorola. These chapters walk the reader through the chronological development of each processor line, describing the evolution of the microarchitectures and instruction set architectures under discussion. Along the way, more advanced concepts such as speculative execution, vector processing, and instruction set translation are introduced and explored via a discussion of one or more real microprocessors. Throughout the middle part of the book the approach is to explain each new processor's features in terms of how they differ from analogous features found in predecessors or competitors. The comparative part of the book culminates in chapters 7 and 8 which consists of detailed comparisons of two starkly different and important processors: Intel's Pentium 4 and Motorola's MPC7450, popularly known as the G4e.
After a brief introduction to 64-bit computing and the 64-bit extensions to the popular x86 instruction set architecture in chapter 9, the microarchitecture of the first mass-market 64-bit processor, the IBM PowerPC 970, is treated in chapter 10. The study of the 970, the majority of which is also directly applicable to IBM's POWER4 mainframe processor, concludes the book's coverage of PowerPC processors. Chapter 11 covers the organization and functioning of the memory hierarchy found in almost all modern computers.
The final chapter contains a detailed examination of the latest generation of processors from Intel: the Pentium M, Core Duo and Core 2 Duo. This chapter contains the most detailed discussion of these processors available online or in print, and it contains some new information not previously released and specially granted by Intel for printing in this book.
I found this book a great read - it is both accessible and enlightening, even for someone with many years experience of working with microprocessors. I really liked how the author used 4-color diagrams to illustrate whatever point he was trying to make. I also appreciate that unlike Patterson's classic book, you don't need to review your combinatorics and discrete math before and after opening the book. The following is the table of contents:
Chapter 1: Basic Computing Concepts
Chapter 2: The Mechanics of Program Execution
Chapter 3: Pipelined Execution
Chapter 4: Superscalar Execution
Chapter 5: The Intel Pentium and Pentium Pro
Chapter 6: PowerPC Processors: 600 Series, 700 Series, and 7400
Chapter 7: Intel's Pentium 4 vs. Motorola's G4e: Approaches and Design Philosophies
Chapter 8: Intel's Pentium 4 vs. Motorola's G4e: The Back End
Chapter 9: 64-Bit Computing and x86-64
Chapter 10: The G5: IBM's PowerPC 970
Chapter 11: Understanding Caching and Performance
Chapter 12: Intel's Pentium M, Core Duo, and Core 2 Duo