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Instruction sets of a microcontroller

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DATA processing instructions :
We use data processing instructions to manipulate data within the registers. 

Types for data processing instructions – 

  • Arithmetic instructions
  • Logical instructions
  • Multiply instructions
  • Comparison instructions
  • Move instructions

 Most of the data processing instructions use a barrel shifter to pre-process the data of one of their operands. Each operation updates different flags in the cpsr (To learn more about ‘CPSR’ search “CPSR in ARM”). 

Let us discuss the instructions in detail.

1. Arithmetic instructions :
The arithmetic instructions mainly implement addition and subtraction of 32bit signed and unsigned values.

                        Syntax: <instruction>{<cond>}{s} Rd, Rn, N

ADC add with 32-bit values and carry Rd=Rn+N+carry
ADD add two 32-bit values Rd=Rn+N
RSB reverse subtract of two 32-bit values Rd=N-Rn
RSC reverse subtract with carry of two 32-bit values Rd=N-Rn-!(Carry flag)
SBC subtract with carry of two 32-bit values Rd=Rn-N-!(Carry flag)
SUB subtract two 322-bit values Rd=Rn-N
 N is the result of the shift operation. 

Examples –
1. This simple subtract instruction subtracts a value stored in register r2 from a value stored in register r1. The result is stored in register r0

           r0 = 0x00000000     ;  As this register is a register to hold the output, that’s why it is empty before execution
           r1 = 0x000000002   ; register r1 holds the value ‘2’
           r2 = 0x000000001   ; r2 holds another value ‘1’
           SUB r0, r1, r2      ; r0=r1 – r2. Here the subtracted value (r0 – r1) is moved to r0 after performing operation.

          r0 = 0x00000001  ; This is the output of above instruction moved to r0 register

2. This reverse subtract instruction (RSB) subtracts r1 from the constant value #0, writing the result to r0.
     Reverse subtraction is helpful for integer values so that the instruction can be subtracted with no complexity.

          r0 = 0x00000000   ; Output register 
          r1= 0x00000077   ; value to be reverse subtracted
          RSB r0, r1, #0      ; Rd = 0x- – r1

        r0 = -r1 = 0xffffff89   ; reversed output gets generated and stored in the register r0

Usage of barrel shifter with arithmetic instructions –
Barrel shifting is one of the powerful features of the ARM instruction set.
It pre processes one of the operand/ registers before performing operation on it.

Example –

           r0 = 0x00000000   
           r1 = 0x00000005   
           ADD r0, r1, r1, LSL #1

           r0 = 0x0000000f   
           r1 = 0x00000005

2. Logical Instruction –
Logical instructions perform bitwise logical operations on the two source registers.
Syntax: <instruction>{<cond>} {S} Rd, Rn, N

AND logical bitwise AND of two 32-bit values Rd = Rn & N
ORR logical bitwise OR of two 32-bit values Rd = Rn | N
EOR logical exclusive OR of two 32-bit values Rd = Rn ^ N
BIC logical bit clear (AND NOT) Rd = Rn &~ N

Example –
1. This example shows a logical OR operation between registers r1 and r2, r0 holds the result.

          r0 = 0x00000000
          r1 = 0x02040608
          r2 = 0x10305070
          ORR r0, r1, r2

         r0 = 0x12345678

2. This example shows a more complicated logical instruction called BIC, which carries out a logical bit clear.

          r1 = 0b1111
          r2 = 0b0101
          BIC r0, r1, r2

          r0 = 0b1010 

3. Multiply Instruction – 
The multiply instructions multiply the contents of a pair of registers depending upon the instruction, and accumulate the result along with another register . The long multiplies accumulate onto a pair of registers representing a 64-bit value. The final result is placed on a destination register or pair of registers.

Syntax –  MLA{<cond>}{S} Rd, Rm, Rs, Rn
              MUL{<cond>}{S} Rd, Rm, Rs

MLA Multiply and accumulate Rd = (Rm * Rs) + Rn
MUL multiply Rd = Rm * Rs

Syntax –  <instruction>{<cond>}{S} RdLo, RdHi, Rm, Rs

SMLAL signed multiply accumulate long [RdHi, RdLo] = [RdHi, RdLo] + (Rm * Rs)
SMULL signed multiply long [RdHi, RdLo] = Rm * Rs
UMLAL unsigned multiply accumulate long [RdHi, RdLo] = [RdHi, RdLo] + (Rm * Rs)
UMULL unsigned multiply long [RdHi, RdLo] = Rm * Rs

Processor implementation handles the number of cycles taken to execute a multiply instruction.

Example 1  –

  • This example represents the simple multiply instruction that multiplies registers r1 and r2 together and places the result into a register r0.
  • Register r1 is equal to the value 2, and r2 is equal to 2, then replaced to r0.

          r0 = 0x00000000   ; register to hold the output
          r1 = 0x00000002   ; register holding the operand 1 value
          r2 = 0x00000002   ; register holding the operand 2 value
          MUL r0, r1, r2   ; r0 = r1 * r2

          r0 = 0x00000004   ; output of the multiplication operation
          r1 = 0x00000002   
          r2 = 0x00000002   ;   operands

Example 2 –

          r0 = 0x00000000   
          r1 = 0x00000000
          r2 = 0xf0000002
          r3 = 0x00000002
          UMULL r0, r1, r2, r3   ; [r1, r0] = r2 * r3

          r0 = 0xe0000004  ; = RdLo
          r1 = 0x00000001  ; = RdHi

4. Comparison Instructions –
These instructions are used to compare or test a register with a 32-bit value. They update the cpsr flag bits according to the result, but do not affect other registers. After the bits have been set, the information can then be used to change program flow by using conditional execution.

Syntax – <instruction>{<cond>} Rn, N

CMN compare negated flags set as a result of Rn + N
CMP compare flags set as a result of Rn – N
TEQ test for quality of two 32 – bit values flags set as a result of Rn ^ N
TST test bits of a 32-bit value flags set as a result of Rn & N
 N is the result of the shifter operation. 

Example –

          cpsr = nzcvqift_USER     
          r0 = 4   ; register to be compared
          r9 = 4  ; register to be compared
          CMP r0, r9

cpsr = nzcvqift_USER   output generated after comparison

5. Move Instructions –
Move is the simplest ARM instruction. It copies N into a destination register Rd, where N is a register or immediate value. This instruction is useful for setting initial values and transferring data between registers.

Syntax – <instruction>{<cond>}{S} Rd, N

MOV Move a 32-bit value into a register Rd = N
MVN move the NOT of the 32-bit value into a register Rd = ~N

Example – 
          r5 = 5    ; register value 
          r7 = 8    ; register value
          MOV  r7, r5  ;let r7 = r5

          r5 = 5       ; data in the register after moving the r5 data into r7
          r7 = 5       ; output after  move operation

Barrel Shifter – 
It is a device to shift a word with variable amount. It is one of the logic devices used to pre-process one of the operand/register before operating on to the ALU operations. And it is one of the best features of ARM.

Barrel Shifter

Mnemonics Description Shift Result Shift amount
LSL logical shift left xLSLy x<<y #0-31 or Rs
LSR logical shift right xLSRy (unsigned) x>>y #1-32 or Rs
ASR arithmetic right shift xASRy (signed) x>>y #1-32 or Rs
ROR rotate right xRORy ((unsigned) x>>y) | (x<<(32 – y) #1-31 or Rs
RRX rotate right extended xRRX (c flag << 31) | ((unsigned) x>>1) none
x represents the register being shifted and y represent the shift amount
N shift operations Syntax
Immediate #immediate
Register Rm
Logical shift left by immediate Rm, LSL #shift_imm
Logical shift left by register Rm, LSL Rs
Logical shift right by immediate Rm, LSR #shift_imm
Logical shift right by register Rm, LSR  Rs
Arithmetic shift right by immediate  Rm, ASR #shift_imm
Arithmetic shift right by register Rm, ASR Rs
Rotate right by immediate Rm, ROR #shift_imm
Rotate right by register Rm, ROR Rs
rotate right with extend Rm, RRX


  • This example of a  MOVS instruction shifts register r1 left by one bit.
  • This multiplies register r1 by a value 21

          cpsr = nzcvqiFt_USER
          r0 = 0x00000000
          r1 = 0x80000004
          MOVS   r0, r1, LSL #1

          cpsr = nzCvqiFt_USER
          r0 = 0x00000008
          r1 = 0x80000004

  • The C flag is updated in the CPSR because the S suffix is present in the instruction mnemonics.

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Last Updated : 28 Apr, 2022
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