This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (March 2017)
A floating-point unit (FPU, colloquially a math coprocessor) is a part of a computer system specially designed to carry out operations on floating-point numbers.Typical operations are addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square root. Some FPUs can also perform various transcendental functions such as exponential or trigonometric calculations, but the accuracy can be very low, so that some systems prefer to compute these functions in software.
In general-purpose computer architectures, one or more FPUs may be integrated as execution units within the central processing unit; however, many embedded processors do not have hardware support for floating-point operations (while they increasingly have them as standard, at least 32-bit ones).
When a CPU is executing a program that calls for a floating-point operation, there are three ways to carry it out:
In 1954, the IBM 704 had floating-point arithmetic as a standard feature, one of its major improvements over its predecessor the IBM 701. This was carried forward to its successors the 709, 7090, and 7094.
In 1963, Digital announced the PDP-6, which had floating point as a standard feature.
In 1963, the GE-235 featured an "Auxiliary Arithmetic Unit" for floating point and double-precision calculations.
Historically, some systems implemented floating point with a coprocessor rather than as an integrated unit (but now in addition to the CPU, e.g. GPUs – that are coprocessors not always built into the CPU – have FPUs as a rule, while first generations of GPUs didn't). This could be a single integrated circuit, an entire circuit board or a cabinet. Where floating-point calculation hardware has not been provided, floating-point calculations are done in software, which takes more processor time, but avoids the cost of the extra hardware. For a particular computer architecture, the floating-point unit instructions may be emulated by a library of software functions; this may permit the same object code to run on systems with or without floating-point hardware. Emulation can be implemented on any of several levels: in the CPU as microcode (not a common practice), as an operating system function, or in user-space code. When only integer functionality is available, the CORDIC floating-point emulation methods are most commonly used.
In most modern computer architectures, there is some division of floating-point operations from integer operations. This division varies significantly by architecture; some have dedicated floating-point registers, while some, like Intel x86, take it as far as independent clocking schemes.
CORDIC routines have been implemented in Intel x87 coprocessors (8087,80287, 80387 ) up to the 80486 microprocessor series, as well as in the Motorola 68881 and 68882 for some kinds of floating-point instructions, mainly as a way to reduce the gate counts (and complexity) of the FPU subsystem.
Floating-point operations are often pipelined. In earlier superscalar architectures without general out-of-order execution, floating-point operations were sometimes pipelined separately from integer operations.
The modular architecture of Bulldozer microarchitecture uses a special FPU named FlexFPU, which uses simultaneous multithreading. Each physical integer core, two per module, is single-threaded, in contrast with Intel's Hyperthreading, where two virtual simultaneous threads share the resources of a single physical core.
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Some floating-point hardware only supports the simplest operations: addition, subtraction, and multiplication. But even the most complex floating-point hardware has a finite number of operations it can support – for example, no FPUs directly support arbitrary-precision arithmetic.
When a CPU is executing a program that calls for a floating-point operation that is not directly supported by the hardware, the CPU uses a series of simpler floating-point operations. In systems without any floating-point hardware, the CPU emulates it using a series of simpler fixed-point arithmetic operations that run on the integer arithmetic logic unit.
The software that lists the necessary series of operations to emulate floating-point operations is often packaged in a floating-point library.
In some cases, FPUs may be specialized, and divided between simpler floating-point operations (mainly addition and multiplication) and more complicated operations, like division. In some cases, only the simple operations may be implemented in hardware or microcode, while the more complex operations are implemented as software.
In some current architectures, the FPU functionality is combined with SIMD units to perform SIMD computation; an example of this is the augmentation of the x87 instructions set with SSE instruction set in the x86-64 architecture used in newer Intel and AMD processors.
In the 1980s, it was common in IBM PC/compatible microcomputers for the FPU to be entirely separate from the CPU, and typically sold as an optional add-on. It would only be purchased if needed to speed up or enable math-intensive programs.
The IBM PC, XT, and most compatibles based on the 8088 or 8086 had a socket for the optional 8087 coprocessor. The AT and 80286-based systems were generally socketed for the 80287, and 80386/80386SX-based machines – for the 80387 and 80387SX respectively, although early ones were socketed for the 80287, since the 80387 did not exist yet. Other companies manufactured co-processors for the Intel x86 series. These included Cyrix and Weitek.
Coprocessors were available for the Motorola 68000 family, the 68881 and 68882. These were common in Motorola 68020/68030-based workstations, like the Sun-3 series. They were also commonly added to higher-end models of Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga series, but unlike IBM PC-compatible systems, sockets for adding the coprocessor were not as common in lower-end systems.
There are also add-on FPUs coprocessor units for microcontroller units (MCUs/μCs)/single-board computer (SBCs), which serve to provide floating-point arithmetic capability. These add-on FPUs are host-processor-independent, possess their own programming requirements (operations, instruction sets, etc.) and are often provided with their own integrated development environments (IDEs).
A central processing unit (CPU), also called a central processor, main processor or just processor, is the electronic circuitry within a computer that executes instructions that make up a computer program. The CPU performs basic arithmetic, logic, controlling, and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions in the program. This contrasts with external components such as main memory and I/O circuitry, and specialized processors such as graphics processing units (GPUs).
The Cyrix 6x86 is a sixth-generation, 32-bit x86 microprocessor designed by Cyrix and manufactured by IBM and SGS-Thomson. It was originally released in 1996.
The 8086 is a 16-bit microprocessor chip designed by Intel between early 1976 and June 8, 1978, when it was released. The Intel 8088, released July 1, 1979, is a slightly modified chip with an external 8-bit data bus, and is notable as the processor used in the original IBM PC design.
The Intel 80386, also known as i386 or just 386, is a 32-bit microprocessor introduced in 1985. The first versions had 275,000 transistors and were the CPU of many workstations and high-end personal computers of the time. As the original implementation of the 32-bit extension of the 80286 architecture, the 80386 instruction set, programming model, and binary encodings are still the common denominator for all 32-bit x86 processors, which is termed the i386-architecture, x86, or IA-32, depending on context.
The Intel 80486, also known as the i486 or 486, is a higher performance follow-up to the Intel 80386 microprocessor. The 80486 was introduced in 1989 and was the first tightly pipelined x86 design as well as the first x86 chip to use more than a million transistors, due to a large on-chip cache and an integrated floating-point unit. It represents a fourth generation of binary compatible CPUs since the original 8086 of 1978.
IEEE 754-1985 was an industry standard for representing floating-point numbers in computers, officially adopted in 1985 and superseded in 2008 by IEEE 754-2008, and then again in 2019 by minor revision IEEE 754-2019. During its 23 years, it was the most widely used format for floating-point computation. It was implemented in software, in the form of floating-point libraries, and in hardware, in the instructions of many CPUs and FPUs. The first integrated circuit to implement the draft of what was to become IEEE 754-1985 was the Intel 8087.
A microprocessor, also simply called a processor, or CPU is a computer processor that is implemented on a single integrated circuit (IC) dies of MOSFET construction in a single package. The microprocessor is a multipurpose, clock-driven, register-based, digital integrated circuit that accepts binary data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and provides results as output. Microprocessors contain both combinational logic and sequential digital logic. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary number system.
x86 is a family of instruction set architectures initially developed by Intel based on the Intel 8086 microprocessor and its 8088 variant. The 8086 was introduced in 1978 as a fully 16-bit extension of Intel's 8-bit 8080 microprocessor, with memory segmentation as a solution for addressing more memory than can be covered by a plain 16-bit address. The term "x86" came into being because the names of several successors to Intel's 8086 processor end in "86", including the 80186, 80286, 80386 and 80486 processors.
In computer science, an instruction set architecture (ISA) is an abstract model of a computer. It is also referred to as architecture or computer architecture. A realization of an ISA, such as a central processing unit (CPU), is called an implementation.
Cyrix Corporation was a microprocessor developer that was founded in 1988 in Richardson, Texas, as a specialist supplier of math coprocessors for 286 and 386 microprocessors. The company was founded by Tom Brightman and Jerry Rogers. Cyrix founder, president, and CEO Jerry Rogers aggressively recruited engineers and pushed them, eventually assembling a design team of 30 people.
A coprocessor is a computer processor used to supplement the functions of the primary processor. Operations performed by the coprocessor may be floating point arithmetic, graphics, signal processing, string processing, cryptography or I/O interfacing with peripheral devices. By offloading processor-intensive tasks from the main processor, coprocessors can accelerate system performance. Coprocessors allow a line of computers to be customized, so that customers who do not need the extra performance do not need to pay for it.
A processor register is a quickly accessible location available to a computer's processor. Registers usually consist of a small amount of fast storage, although some registers have specific hardware functions, and may be read-only or write-only. In computer architecture, registers are typically addressed by mechanisms other than main memory, but may in some cases be assigned a memory address e.g. DEC PDP-10, ICT 1900.
The Intel 8087, announced in 1980, was the first x87 floating-point coprocessor for the 8086 line of microprocessors.
RapidCAD is a specially packaged Intel 486DX and a dummy floating point unit (FPU) designed as pin-compatible replacements for an Intel 80386 processor and 80387 FPU. Because the i486DX has a working on-chip FPU, a dummy FPU package is supplied to go in the Intel 387 FPU socket. The dummy FPU is used to provide the FERR signal, necessary for compatibility purposes.
Hauppauge Computer Works is a US manufacturer and marketer of electronic video hardware for personal computers. Although it is most widely known for its WinTV line of TV tuner cards for PCs, Hauppauge also produces personal video recorders, digital video editors, digital media players, hybrid video recorders and digital television products for both Windows and Mac. The company is named after the hamlet of Hauppauge, New York, in which it is based.
x87 is a floating-point-related subset of the x86 architecture instruction set. It originated as an extension of the 8086 instruction set in the form of optional floating-point coprocessors that worked in tandem with corresponding x86 CPUs. These microchips had names ending in "87". This was also known as the NPX. Like other extensions to the basic instruction set, x87 instructions are not strictly needed to construct working programs, but provide hardware and microcode implementations of common numerical tasks, allowing these tasks to be performed much faster than corresponding machine code routines can. The x87 instruction set includes instructions for basic floating-point operations such as addition, subtraction and comparison, but also for more complex numerical operations, such as the computation of the tangent function and its inverse, for example.
Extended precision refers to floating-point number formats that provide greater precision than the basic floating-point formats. Extended precision formats support a basic format by minimizing roundoff and overflow errors in intermediate values of expressions on the base format. In contrast to extended precision, arbitrary-precision arithmetic refers to implementations of much larger numeric types using special software.
In computing, quadruple precision is a binary floating point–based computer number format that occupies 16 bytes with precision at least twice the 53-bit double precision.
The address generation unit (AGU), sometimes also called address computation unit (ACU), is an execution unit inside central processing units (CPUs) that calculates addresses used by the CPU to access main memory. By having address calculations handled by separate circuitry that operates in parallel with the rest of the CPU, the number of CPU cycles required for executing various machine instructions can be reduced, bringing performance improvements.
The Intel 8231 and 8232 were early designs of floating-point maths coprocessors (FPUs), marketed for use with their i8080 line of primary CPUs. They were licensed versions of AMD's Am9511 and Am9512 FPUs, from 1977 and 1979, themselves claimed by AMD as the world's first single-chip FPU solutions.