For those who want to study retro computing in depth, starting by understanding 74xxx logic and CPU design is (IMHO), one of the best paths there is. Malvino's "Digital Computer Electronics" (DCE), with its SAP-1, 2 and 3 is probable the authoritative book out there, with its designs popularised by Ben Eater's tutorials.

Is there any recent (post-2000) book on Electronics and CPU design that might provide an alternative to Malvino's book? I know of Nisan and Schocken's "The Elements of Computing Systems" (from the NAND to Tetris series), but I find it lacks the depth of DCE.

  • 1
    While not off per se off-topic here, I would expect a higher resonance on EE.SE. (Sorry, can't help, Haven't had the need to learn thisrecently :))
    – Raffzahn
    May 31, 2020 at 13:10
  • Perhaps if you could expand a little on what you actually want from (or in) such a book, it would help us to recommend one. Jun 3, 2020 at 12:54
  • Sure. I'm specifically looking for CPU design, but from a practical aspect of view. VHDL and Verilog is OK. One example that is missing from DEC is pipepiling. Now, I know how it works, but clearly laying an actual design as DEC does is something that I have yet to find. As I've said in another comment, there's James Sharman's Pipelined CPU YouTube series, which is a great example of a concrete design I would be expecting from such book. Jun 3, 2020 at 13:07
  • I'm not aware of such a book, and I doubt it exists. Pipelining adds serious complexity to a processor design if you want to show all the details, making it unsuitable for a textbook format, let alone for an undergraduate text like Malvino or the ones I mentioned below. Malvino could at least have mentioned pipelining in passing, and didn't: The concept goes back to the IBM Stretch, and was well in use on larger machines at the time. The 6502 has an almost-pipeline, overlapping execute and fetch for certain instructions, and that's not mentioned either. Jun 3, 2020 at 16:35
  • 1
    If it's pipelining you're interested in, you might also want to take a look at Appendix C of Hennessy and Patterson, Computer Architectures. That's some 80 pages on pipelining alone, including a very detailed look at the MIPS R4000 pipeline. Jun 3, 2020 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


Malvino's approach is pretty much a child of its time. I'm not aware of any modern textbook that will spend much time on 74xx / MSI logic, because anything more complicated than a gate or two will be synthesized into a CPLD / FPGA / ASIC these days. CPU design, too, has become a topic too specialised and complex to be treated in detail in an introductory textbook.

That gives you four options.

If you are looking for a modern book on digital design (but neglecting 74xx logic and CPUs), I've heard good things about Brock J LaMeres' Introduction to Logic Circuits & Logic Design with VHDL and Introduction to Logic Circuits & Logic Design with Verilog (essentially the same book, using the HDL of your choice). Both are currently available for free (here and here, respectively, as of May 31st, 2020) as part of Springer's initiative to provide free textbooks during the Coronavirus outbreak, as is Introduction to Digital Systems Design by Donzellini et al.

If a modern (or, rather, timeless) introduction to electronics is what you're looking for (with 74xx logic and logic interfacing, but CPUs only treated down to a block diagram level of detail), nothing beats The Art of Electronics, by Horowitz and Hill. The 3rd edition dates from 2015.

If you want a one-to-one alternative to Malvino, you'll have to look for something from rougly the same time period. The first book that comes to mind is the excellent The Art of Digital Design by Prosser and Winkel from 1987, which uses an actual PDP-8 rather than Malvinos SAPs as an example.

Finally, if it's CPU / Computer Architecture you're after, you can take a look at Hennessy and Patterson, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, now in its fifth edition. Graduate level, lots of information, but definitely from a higher altitude than Malvino (as necessitated by modern CPUs being way more complex).

  • 1
    Good selection. When it comes to HDL, I would as well recomend Peter Ashenden's "The Designer's Guide to VHDL" as 3rd edition of 2008. Especially as he updates the book to take new developments in.
    – Raffzahn
    May 31, 2020 at 17:18
  • Besides Ben Eater, another youtube series that I have been following is James Sharman's Pipelined CPU, using a combination of breadboards and custom-made PCBS. It certainly goes beyond SAP-1/2 while still preserving the discrete logic theme. Jun 1, 2020 at 18:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .