Gecko's CPU Library

Hitachi SuperH (SH-1, SH-2, SH-3, SH-4, SH-5) processors

Introduction: 1993

The SuperH processor core family was first developed by Hitachi in the early 90's. Many microcontrollers and microprocessors were based on this architecture.

Hitachi was developing a complete set of instruction set upward compatible CPU cores. Originally, the SH-1 and the SH-2 were used in the Sega Saturn and Sega 32X and then later in many other microcontrollers used in many other embedded applications. These cores use a 16-bit instruction set, though register length and data paths are 32-bit, which gave it an excellent code density. At the time, memory was very expensive.

A few years later, the SH-3 core was added to this family of CPU cores extending the original cores mainly by another interrupt concept, a memory management unit (MMU) and a modified cache concept. The SH-3 core also got a DSP extension, then called SH-3-DSP core. With extended data paths for efficient DSP processing, special accumulators and a dedicated MAC-type DSP engine, this core was unifying the DSP and the RISC processor world. A derivative was also used with the original SH-2 core, then called SH-DSP.

For the Sega Dreamcast, Hitachi was then developing the SH-4 architecture. This was a massive extension of the previous cores. Superscalar (2-way) instruction execution and a parallel vector floating point unit were the highlights of this architecture. This CPU core was then also used in many chipsets for embedded applications requiring a very high performance. SH-4 based standard chips were roughly introduced around 1998.

A bit later, Hitachi and ST Microelectronics formed the IP company SuperH, Inc which was going to license the SH-4 core to other companies and was developing the SH-5 architecture. The first move of SuperH into the 64-bit area. SuperH, Inc. sold the IP of these CPU cores.

The SH-5 design supported two modes of operation. SHcompact mode is equivalent to the user-mode instructions of the SH-4 instruction set. SHmedia mode is very different, using 32-bit instructions with sixty-four 64-bit integer registers and SIMD instructions. In SHmedia mode the destination of a branch (jump) is loaded into a branch register separately from the actual branch instruction. This allows the processor to prefetch instructions for a branch without having to snoop the instruction stream. The combination of a compact 16-bit instruction encoding with a more powerful 32-bit instruction encoding is not unique to SH-5; recent ARM processors have a 16-bit Thumb mode, and MIPS processors have a MIPS-16 mode. However, SH-5 differs because its backward compatibility mode is the 16-bit encoding rather than the 32-bit encoding.

After that, the evolution of the SuperH architecture still continued. The latest evolutionary step happened around 2003 where the cores from SH-2 up to SH-4 were getting unified into a superscalar SH-X core which forms a kind of instruction set superset of the previous architectures.

Today, the SuperH CPU cores, architecture and products are with Renesas Technology, a merger of the Hitachi and Mitsubishi semiconductor groups.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.