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C version (modified from Assembly Language chapter 19): 02/20/2014; 01/30/15

What Can be Computed

This chapter discuss the computing power of processors and the computing power of programming languages.

Only a few basic operations are needed for a processor to have full computing power. A program can have no more computing power than the processor it runs on. So all programming languages that make use of the basic operations of a processor have equal computing power.

Of course, most processors implement many more operations than the bare minimum. And modern programming languages have many more features than the fewest needed to access the full power of the processor. The additional features of a processor greatly add to the convenience in using the processor, but add nothing to what it can compute. The various features of different programming languages make it easier to write the programs you want, but any computation that can be described in one language can be described in any other.

Chapter Topics:

Consider the following question, which, oddly, is usually ignored in introductory courses:


When is one processor more powerful than another? (Think a bit about how to answer this question.)