First Advisor

W. Robert Daasch

Term of Graduation

Summer 1991

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical Engineering




Parallel processing (Electronic computers), Associative storage



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 79 pages)


The associative processing model provides an alternative solution to the von Neumann bottleneck. The memory of an associative computer takes some of the responsibility for processing. Only intermediate results are exchanged between memory and processor. This greatly reduces the amount of communication between them. Content-addressable memories are one implementation of memory for this computational model. Associative computers implemented with CAMs have reported performance improvements of three orders of magnitude, which is equivalent to the performance of the same application running in a conventional computer with clock frequencies of the order of GHz. Among the benefits of content-addressable memories to the computer system are: 1) it is simpler to parallelize algorithms and implement concurrency; 2) the synchronization cost for parallel processing is lower, which enables the use of small grain parallelism; 3) it can improve the performance in non-numeric applications that are known to have low performance in conventional computers; 4) it provides a trade off between integration density and clock frequencies to achieve the same performance that is not available in RAM 5) matches well to current and future technologies due to the trade off between integration and clock frequency; 6) it attacks the von Neumann bottleneck by reducing the requirements on the communication bandwidth between processor and memory.

In this thesis, the role of CAMs in associative processing is analyzed, reaching the conclusion that to implement these characteristics the CAM must be able to filter the data transferred to the processor, provide explicit support for parallelism and data structures, support non-numeric applications, and execute logical operations. The characteristics and architecture of a content-addressable memory integrated circuit are presented along with an application with estimated performance improvement of over three orders of magnitude.


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