Serial computer

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A serial computer is a computer typified by bit-serial architecture – i.e., internally operating on one bit or digit for each clock cycle. Machines with serial main storage devices such as acoustic or magnetostrictive delay lines and rotating magnetic devices were usually serial computers.

Serial computers required much less hardware than their parallel computing counterpart,[1] but were much slower. There are modern variants of the serial computer available as a soft microprocessor[2] which can serve niche purposes where size of the CPU is the main constraint.

A serial computer is not necessarily the same as a computer with a 1-bit architecture, which are a subset of the serial computer class. 1-bit computer instructions operate on data consisting of single bits, whereas a serial computer can operate on N-bit data widths, but does so a single bit at a time.

Serial machines[edit]

The first computer that was not serial (the first parallel computer) was the Whirlwind – 1951.

Most of the early massive parallel processing machines were built out of individual serial processors, including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilkes, Maurice Vincent (1956). Automatic digital computers. Methuen Publishing Ltd / John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  2. ^ Howe, Richard (June 27, 2019). "Bit-Serial". Github Project: A Bit Serial CPU. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  3. ^ Miller, Raymond E. (1965). Switching Theory - Volume 1: Combinational Circuits. 1 (Second printing, March 1966, of 1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 44–47. LCCN 65-14249.
  4. ^ Holt, Raymond M., Architecture Of A Microprocessor (PDF), pp. 5, 7, archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-11-04, retrieved 2017-11-04, […] the processor was designed to transfer data serially throughout the entire system. […] The Parallel Multiplier Unit […] by means of a parallel algorithm […] [1]