Benchmarking Suite-16

A project log for Suite-16

Suite-16 is a 16-bit cpu built entirely from TTL. It is a personal exploration of how hardware and software interact.

monsonitemonsonite 10/28/2019 at 13:460 Comments

Over the last week I have been running Suite-16 assembly language simulated  in about 60 lines of  C++ code.  I have evolved the simulator over that time, and added some new instructions where it became necessary to use them.

The simulator has been written using the Arduino IDE - so that anyone with an Arduino compatible board can explore the code and learn how a very simple cpu simulator works.

Originally I had been simulating the Suite-16 cpu on an MSP430 Launchpad board with FRAM.

I noticed that despite it being a 16-bit processor, the performance was not so good, so I have swapped over to a Nucleo STM32H743 board which has a 400MHz ARM processor.

I'm still using the Arduino IDE to develop code - because it has a useful timing function micros() which returns the number of microseconds since the program was started. With this I can get fairly accurate timing information from my simulator.

I have used one of the spare instruction opcodes to allow the instruction count and the elapsed time to be output to the terminal

By way of a timing benchmark, I have set up a simple loop that loads R0 with 32767 and repeatedly decrements it until it reaches zero. I then print out instruction count and elapsed number of microseconds.

Based on the "count down from 32767" loop, my Suite16 simulator is running about 8 million simulated instructions per second.

That's about 66% of what I'm hoping the TTL cpu to run at.

Based on the 400MHz clock on the Nucleo board, I can estimate that the simulator in C is taking about 50 ARM instructions to execute a Suite-16 simulated one.

I tried exactly the same code on the MSP430 which is a nominal 16MHz. Unfortunately the FRAM only works at 8MHz with wait states, so that slows it down considerably to about 75,000 simulated instructions per second.

So I tried a 16MHz Arduino with an 8-bit AVR ATmega328 and the results were much improved to nearly 139,000 instructions per second.

The humble AVR is approximately 59 times slower than the ARM, but with a 7uS simulated instruction cycle it is still in the same league as some of the classic minicomputers from the 1960s.