Input Output Processor in Computer Architecture

Input Output Processor:- Instead of having each interface communicate with the CPU, a computer may incorporate one or more external processors and assign them the task of communicating directly with all I/O devices. An input-output processor (IOP) may be classified as a processor with direct memory access capability that communicates with I/O devices. In this configuration, the computer system. can be divided into a memory unit, and a number of processors comprised of the CPU and one or more IOPS. Each IOP takes care of input and output tasks, relieving the CPU from the housekeeping chores involved in I/O transfers. A processor that communicates with remote terminals over the telephone and other communication media in a serial fashion is called a data communication processor (DCF). In this post, we discuss Input Output Processor in Computer Architecture.

The IOP is similar to a CPU except that it is designed to handle the details of I/O processing. Unlike the DMA controller that must be set up entirely by the CPU, the IOP can fetch and execute its own instructions. IOP instructions are specifically designed to facilitate I/O transfers. In addition, the IOP can perform other processing tasks, such as arithmetic, logic, branching, and code translation.

The block diagram of a computer with two processors is shown in Figure. The memory unit occupies a central position and can communicate with each processor by means of direct memory access. The CPU is responsible for processing data needed in the solution of computational tasks. The IOP provides a path for the transfer of data between various peripheral devices and the memory unit. The CPU is usually assigned the task of initiating the I/O program. From then on the IOP operates independently of the CPU and continues to data from external devices and memory.


Input Output Processor

Block diagram of Input Output Processor


The data formats of peripheral devices differ from memory and CPU data formats. The IOP must structure data words from many different sources. For example, it may be necessary to take four bytes from an input device and pack them into one 32-bit word before the transfer to memory. Data are gathered in the IOP at the device rate and bit capacity while the CPU is executing its own program. After the input data are assembled into a memory word, they are transferred from IOP directly into memory by “stealing” one memory cycle from the CPU. Similarly, an output word transferred from the memory to the IOP is directed from the IOP to the output device at the device rate and bit capacity.

The communication between the IOP and the devices attached to it is similar to the program control method of transfer. Communication with the memory is similar to the direct memory access method. The way by which the CPU and IOP communicate depends on the level of sophistication included in the system. In very-large-scale computers, each processor is independent of all others and any one processor can initiate an operation. In most computer systems, the CPU is the master while the IOP is a slave processor. The CPU is assigned the task of initiating all operations, but I/O instructions are executed in the IOP. CPU instructions provide operations to start an I/O transfer and also to test I/O status conditions needed for making decisions on various 1/0 activities. The IOP, in turn, typically asks for CPU attention by means of an interrupt. It also responds to CPU requests by placing a status word in a prescribed location in memory to be examined later by a CPU program. When an I/O operation is desired, the CPU informs the IOP where to find the I/O program and then leaves the transfer details to the IOP

Instructions that are read from memory by an IOP are sometimes called commands, to distinguish them from instructions that are read by the CPU. Otherwise, an instruction and a command have similar functions. Commands are prepared by experienced programmers and are stored in memory. The command words constitute the program for the IOP. The CPU informs the IOP where to find the commands in memory when it is time to execute the I/O program.

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