RISC, CISC, and General Systems Thinking
by Dwayne Phillips
Reduced complexity optimizes for simplicity. Increased complexity optimizes for simplicity in another form. Which simplicity is “best” is a matter of situation.
Apple has recently moved to their own “Apple Silicon” processors. In general terms, Apple switched from Intel’s processors to ARM’s processors. ARM processors are a form of RISC. Intel processors are a form of CISC.
RISC: Reduced Instruction Set Computer.
CISC: Complex Instruction Set Computer.
RISC means there are fewer instructions that the computer must be able to execute. Hence, the computer is simpler and performs tasks faster. The computer programmer, however, must “figure out” how to accomplish any given task.
CISC means there are more instructions that the computer must be able to execute. Hence, the computer is more complex and performs tasks slower. The computer programmer, however, doesn’t have to “figure out” as much to accomplish any given task.
In one case, the machine itself is simpler. In the other case, the programmer’s task is simpler. We have more simplicity in both cases.
Which of the two “simplicities” is better? That is a matter of the situation at hand. This means someone chooses. Do we choose after thought or simply fall into the choice (another simpler, yikes!)?