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Reverse Engineering the ARM1 Processor’s Microinstructions

Reverse Engineering the ARM1 Processor’s Microinstructions
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Contents of the microcode PLA

The raw data from the PLA for the LDR immediate instruction is given below, showing the 36 output bits forming a microinstruction for each cycle of the instruction.

 

Cycle number PLA output
0 001010101001000000100001100010100001
1 101011010001000000001000111010100100
2 010101101001000001010010110010010000

Since the raw PLA output is fairly meaningless, I have broken it down into fields and done a small amount of decoding. The image below shows the decoded contents of the instruction decode PLA; click for full-size. Each row corresponds to one clock cycle in an instruction and each column is one of the 22 fields generated by the 36 bits of the PLA. The PLA handles 18 different instruction groups, indicated on the left.



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Contents of the ARM1 microcode PLA (thumbnail).

Contents of the ARM1 microcode PLA (thumbnail).

The rows Initialization and Interrupt are not instructions per se, but triggered by other PLA inputs. The Initialization micro-instruction is an idle step used when the pipeline does not have a valid instruction (at startup or after R15 modification). It is triggered if the iregval signal (8156) from the Pipeline State circuit is 0. The Interrupt microinstructions handle an interrupt or fault and are triggered by the intseq signal (8118) from the Trap Control circuit. The Reserved rows correspond to undocumented instructions, probably load and store with register-specified shift. The first Reserved row is unique in that the microcode sequence forks; this is cycle number 0 for both of the next Reserved blocks. It is unclear why these instructions were implemented but not documented.

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