Floating point unit
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A floating point unit (FPU) is a part of a computer system specially designed to carry out operations on floating point numbers. Typical operations are floating point arithmetic (such as addition and multiplication), but some systems may be capable of performing exponential or trigonometric calculations as well (such as square roots or cosines).
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 coprocessor rather as an integrated unit; in the microcomputer era, this was generally a single microchip, while in older systems it could be an entire circuit board or a cabinet.
Not all computer architecures 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 system function, or in user space code.
In most modern computer architectures, there is some division of floating point operations from integer operations. 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 superscalar architectures 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 Netburst and AMD64 architectures (such as the Pentium 4 and Athlon 64, respectively.)
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 SIMD computation; one example of this is the AMD64 architecture.
Template:Main From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, it was common in IBM PC/compatible microcomputers for 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.
The 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 80386/80386SX based machines for the 80387 and 80387SX respectively, although early ones were socketed for the 80287, since the 80387 did 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 80487 was 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 Cyrix which marketed its FasMath series as higher performance but fully x87 compatible, and Weitek which 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 680x0 line. These FPUS, the 68881 and 68882, were common in 68020/68030-based workstations like the Sun 3 series. They were also commonly added to higher-end models of Apple Macintosh and Commodore Amiga series, 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 68LC040 without an integrated FPU was also available.