A New Approach to the Functional Design of a Digital Computer

A New Approach to the Functional Design of a Digital Computer by R. S. Barton, 1961.

The present methods of determining the functional design of computers are critically reviewed and a new approach proposed. This is illustrated by explaining, in abstracted form, part of the control organization of a new and different machine based, in part, on the ALGOL 60 language. The concepts of expression and procedure lead directly to the use of a Polish string program. A new arrangement of control registers results, which provides for automatic allocation of temporary storage within expressions and procedures, and a generalized subroutine linkage.

The simplicity and power of these notions suggests that there is much room for improvement in present machines and that more attention should be given to control functions new designs.

"One of the most amazing far reaching 4 page papers in our field" referenced in A Conversation with Alan Kay.

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Excellent, thanks!

I did a quick bit of research on this architecture a few months ago and dug up some more interesting papers and links:

* John Mashey, my favorite comp.arch celebrity, on the B5000, including reasons why it would be difficult to make it a commercial success today.
* Alastair Mayer's reflections on the 20th anniversary of the B5000.
* A scanned copy of The Descriptor, mentioned by Alan in the same paragraph as Barton's paper. (On the cover, someone has scrawled, "RARE MANUAL... DO NOT STEAL.")

The B5000

The B5000 has been a commercial success for decades, and still is, though it's niche has been declining for quite some time now. Now it's marketed more as a platform for enterprise java solutions than anything else.

It's still available from Unisys as the Clearpath/MCP on their Libra line.

I think the longevity of the Burroughs 5000 is rather unique in the history of computing, even though they've never been "dominant." But they've gone the distance, moreso than almost all the dominant architectures.

"Commercial success"

Sorry, I was putting words in Dr. Mashey's mouth and didn't make my point clearly; what he actually said was, "One would *not* design a B5000-like ISA today, or even in last 20
years." He didn't claim that it wasn't a commercial success, but he implied that it wouldn't be if it were introduced today, and gave a couple of good reasons why.

Yeah, I actually clicked on

Yeah, I actually clicked on that link after I responded. It's all good :-)