- Floating point unit
A floating point unit (FPU) is a part of a
computersystem specially designed to carry out operations on floating pointnumbers. Typical operations are addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square root. Some systems (particularly older, microcode-based architectures) can also perform various transcendental functions such as exponential or trigonometric calculations, though in most modern processors these are done with software library routines.
In most modern general purpose
computer architectures, one or more FPUs are integrated with the CPU; however many embedded processors, especially older designs, do not have hardware support for floating point operations.
In the past, some systems have implemented floating point via a
coprocessorrather than as an integrated unit; in the microcomputerera, this was generally a single microchip, while in older systems it could be an entire circuit board or a cabinet.
Not all computer architectures have a hardware FPU. In the absence of an FPU, many FPU functions can be emulated, which saves the added hardware cost of an FPU but is significantly slower. Emulation can be implemented on any of several levels - in the CPU as
microcode, as an operating systemfunction, or in user spacecode.
In most modern computer architectures, there is some division of floating point operations from
integeroperations. This division varies significantly by architecture; some, like the Intel x86 have dedicated floating point registers, while some take it as far as independent clocking schemes.
Floating point operations are often pipelined. In earlier
superscalararchitectures without general out-of-order execution, floating point operations were sometimes pipelined separately from integer operations. Today, many CPUs/architectures have more than one FPU, such as the PowerPC 970, and processors based on the Netburstand AMD64architectures (such as the Pentium 4and Athlon 64, respectively.)
When a CPU is executing a program that calls for a floating-point operation, there are three ways to carry it out:
* a floating point unit emulator (a floating-point library)
* add-on FPU
* integrated FPU
Most modern computers have integrated FPU hardware.
Floating point library
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, none of them directly support
When a CPU is executing a program that calls for a floating-point operation 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 arithmeticoperations 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.
id software released a game,
Quakewhich was the first 3D game to require a hardware FPU to play.
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, while the more complex operations could be emulated.
In some current architectures, the FPU functionality is combined with units to perform
SIMDcomputation; an example of this is the replacement of the x87instructions set with SSE instruction set in the x86-64architecture used in newer Intel and AMD processors.
In the 1980s, it was common in
IBM PC/compatible microcomputersfor 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.
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/ 80386SXbased machines for the 80387and 80387SXrespectively, although early ones were socketed for the 80287, since the 80387did not exist yet.
Starting with the
80486, in x86 chips the floating point unit was integrated with the CPU, something true for almost all later x86-architecture processors. One notable exception is the 80486SX; it was also unusual in that no actual coprocessor was available -- the 80487was a full CPU with an integrated FPU; when installed, the original 80486SX would be disabled.
In addition to the Intel x87 series, several other companies manufactured co-processors for the x86 series. These included
Cyrixwhich marketed its FasMath series as higher performance but fully x87 compatible, and Weitekwhich offered a high-performance but not fully x87 compatible series of coprocessors.
In addition to the Intel architectures, FPUs as coprocessors were available for the
Motorola 680x0line. These FPUS, the 68881 and 68882, were common in 68020/ 68030-based workstations like the Sun 3series. They were also commonly added to higher-end models of Apple Macintoshand Commodore Amigaseries, but unlike IBM PC-compatible systems, sockets for adding the coprocessor were not as common in lower end systems. With the 68040, Motorola integrated the FPU and CPU, but like the x86 series, a lower cost 68LC040without an integrated FPU was also available.
Also, there are add-on FPUs Coprocessor units for Microcontroller units (MCUs/µCs)/Single Board Computers (SBCs) which serve to provide Floating Point Arithmetic capability in systems that might not otherwise possess said functionality. The difference in these types of FPU Coprocessors, when compared to more traditional Floating Point Coprocessors such as the 80x87 series, is that these add-on FPUs are host-processor independent, possess their own programming requirements, and are often provided with their own IDEs.
IEEE floating-point standard(also known as IEEE 754)
* [http://www.opencores.org/projects.cgi/web/fpu100/fpu_doc.pdf OPENCORES.ORG] Floating Point Unit
QuakeAn id software game, the first 3D game to require an FPU to run
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