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Can somebody explain how ARM works?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I've been looking at Raspberry Pi-like SoCs, and there are a number of terms that are just confusing. An RPi is "ARMv6." A more powerful "clone," the Banana Pi, is "ARMv7." I have a HummingBoard that uses four "Cortex-A9" cores.

So, what exactly does this mean? Who makes the architecture? Is this like the old days where IBM would make an architecture and then have a contract with Intel, AMD, Cyrix, VIA, et. al. to actually produce it? Except now of course it would be ARM licensing this architecture to Samsung, Qualcomm, Apple, et. al.

Or does the Cortex label and the ARM revision label simply mean which instruction sets a chip uses? For example, Intel and AMD introduce new versions of SSE and AVX and then design their own in-house CPUs that can use them. I'm still not quite clear what these all mean.
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post #2 of 6
It has something to do with RISC and CISC. Also, power consumption, but i'm no expert, so anyone knowledgeable would just be filling an empty bowl biggrin.gif
post #3 of 6
ARMv6 and v7 just refer to what generation of ARM architecture that the CPU was built on. Those are the sixth and seventh generations of ARM archtecture, as you might guess. The Cortex-A9 is a brand name for an ARMv7 core design that is licensed by ARM to manufacturers for use in their own designs, but it has been superseded by newer v7 core designs and even by the ARMv8 architecture.

All ARM architecture designs are pure RISC. ARM originally stood for "Acorn RISC Machine," in fact.
     
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post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
By architecture with regards to v6/v7/v8, I take it you mean the ISA itself, and not the layout of transistors that make a core?
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post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalUnicorn View Post

By architecture with regards to v6/v7/v8, I take it you mean the ISA itself, and not the layout of transistors that make a core?

But doesn't Intel & AMD design chips for the purpose. I mean the layout of transistors would be based on the purpose they would serve.
post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalUnicorn View Post

By architecture with regards to v6/v7/v8, I take it you mean the ISA itself, and not the layout of transistors that make a core?
Yes. The v6/v7/v8 refers to the ISA, the names like Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 refer to the layout of transistors that make a core. Also remember that ARM doesn't make anything itself; they're not like Intel, which does every step of the process from start to finish, or AMD, which does everything except actually fab the x86 CPU's it designs (AMD is also an ARM licensee, as you probably know). ARM creates the ISA and designs the core, but the implementation of that core into a specific CPU design is entirely up to the company that licenses the technology from ARM.
     
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