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RISC-V Instruction Set Manual, Volume I: RISC-V User-Level ISA , riscv-priv-1.10 2017/05/07

28 History and Acknowledgments

28.1 History from Revision 1.0 of ISA manual

The RISC-V ISA and instruction set manual builds up several earlier projects. Several aspects of the supervisor-level machine and the overall format of the manual date back to the T0 (Torrent-0) vector microprocessor project at UC Berkeley and ICSI, begun in 1992. T0 was a vector processor based on the MIPS-II ISA, with Krste Asanović as main architect and RTL designer, and Brian Kingsbury and Bertrand Irrisou as principal VLSI implementors. David Johnson at ICSI was a major contributor to the T0 ISA design, particularly supervisor mode, and to the manual text. John Hauser also provided considerable feedback on the T0 ISA design.

The Scale (Software-Controlled Architecture for Low Energy) project at MIT, begun in 2000, built upon the T0 project infrastructure, refined the supervisor-level interface, and moved away from the MIPS scalar ISA by dropping the branch delay slot. Ronny Krashinsky and Christopher Batten were the principal architects of the Scale Vector-Thread processor at MIT, while Mark Hampton ported the GCC-based compiler infrastructure and tools for Scale.

A lightly edited version of the T0 MIPS scalar processor specification (MIPS-6371) was used in teaching a new version of the MIT 6.371 Introduction to VLSI Systems class in the Fall 2002 semester, with Chris Terman and Krste Asanović as lecturers. Chris Terman contributed most of the lab material for the class (there was no TA!). The 6.371 class evolved into the trial 6.884 Complex Digital Design class at MIT, taught by Arvind and Krste Asanović in Spring 2005, which became a regular Spring class 6.375. A reduced version of the Scale MIPS-based scalar ISA, named SMIPS, was used in 6.884/6.375. Christopher Batten was the TA for the early offerings of these classes and developed a considerable amount of documentation and lab material based around the SMIPS ISA. This same SMIPS lab material was adapted and enhanced by TA Yunsup Lee for the UC Berkeley Fall 2009 CS250 VLSI Systems Design class taught by John Wawrzynek, Krste Asanović, and John Lazzaro.

The Maven (Malleable Array of Vector-thread ENgines) project was a second-generation vector-thread architecture. Its design was led by Christopher Batten when he was an Exchange Scholar at UC Berkeley starting in summer 2007. Hidetaka Aoki, a visiting industrial fellow from Hitachi, gave considerable feedback on the early Maven ISA and microarchitecture design. The Maven infrastructure was based on the Scale infrastructure but the Maven ISA moved further away from the MIPS ISA variant defined in Scale, with a unified floating-point and integer register file. Maven was designed to support experimentation with alternative data-parallel accelerators. Yunsup Lee was the main implementor of the various Maven vector units, while Rimas Avižienis was the main implementor of the various Maven scalar units. Yunsup Lee and Christopher Batten ported GCC to work with the new Maven ISA. Christopher Celio provided the initial definition of a traditional vector instruction set (“Flood”) variant of Maven.

Based on experience with all these previous projects, the RISC-V ISA definition was begun in Summer 2010. An initial version of the RISC-V 32-bit instruction subset was used in the UC Berkeley Fall 2010 CS250 VLSI Systems Design class, with Yunsup Lee as TA. RISC-V is a clean break from the earlier MIPS-inspired designs. John Hauser contributed to the floating-point ISA definition, including the sign-injection instructions and a register encoding scheme that permits internal recoding of floating-point values.

28.2 History from Revision 2.0 of ISA manual

Multiple implementations of RISC-V processors have been completed, including several silicon fabrications, as shown in Figure 1.1.

Fabricated RISC-V testchips.

The first RISC-V processors to be fabricated were written in Verilog and manufactured in a pre-production 28 nm FDSOI technology from ST as the Raven-1 testchip in 2011. Two cores were developed by Yunsup Lee and Andrew Waterman, advised by Krste Asanović, and fabricated together: 1) an RV64 scalar core with error-detecting flip-flops, and 2) an RV64 core with an attached 64-bit floating-point vector unit. The first microarchitecture was informally known as “TrainWreck”, due to the short time available to complete the design with immature design libraries.

Subsequently, a clean microarchitecture for an in-order decoupled RV64 core was developed by Andrew Waterman, Rimas Avižienis, and Yunsup Lee, advised by Krste Asanović, and, continuing the railway theme, was codenamed “Rocket” after George Stephenson’s successful steam locomotive design. Rocket was written in Chisel, a new hardware design language developed at UC Berkeley. The IEEE floating-point units used in Rocket were developed by John Hauser, Andrew Waterman, and Brian Richards. Rocket has since been refined and developed further, and has been fabricated two more times in 28 nm FDSOI (Raven-2, Raven-3), and five times in IBM 45 nm SOI technology (EOS14, EOS16, EOS18, EOS20, EOS22) for a photonics project. Work is ongoing to make the Rocket design available as a parameterized RISC-V processor generator.

EOS14–EOS22 chips include early versions of Hwacha, a 64-bit IEEE floating-point vector unit, developed by Yunsup Lee, Andrew Waterman, Huy Vo, Albert Ou, Quan Nguyen, and Stephen Twigg, advised by Krste Asanović. EOS16–EOS22 chips include dual cores with a cache-coherence protocol developed by Henry Cook and Andrew Waterman, advised by Krste Asanović. EOS14 silicon has successfully run at 1.25 GHz. EOS16 silicon suffered from a bug in the IBM pad libraries. EOS18 and EOS20 have successfully run at 1.35 GHz.

Contributors to the Raven testchips include Yunsup Lee, Andrew Waterman, Rimas Avižienis, Brian Zimmer, Jaehwa Kwak, Ruzica Jevtić, Milovan Blagojević, Alberto Puggelli, Steven Bailey, Ben Keller, Pi-Feng Chiu, Brian Richards, Borivoje Nikolić, and Krste Asanović.

Contributors to the EOS testchips include Yunsup Lee, Rimas Avižienis, Andrew Waterman, Henry Cook, Huy Vo, Daiwei Li, Chen Sun, Albert Ou, Quan Nguyen, Stephen Twigg, Vladimir Stojanović, and Krste Asanović.

Andrew Waterman and Yunsup Lee developed the C++ ISA simulator “Spike”, used as a golden model in development and named after the golden spike used to celebrate completion of the US transcontinental railway. Spike has been made available as a BSD open-source project.

Andrew Waterman completed a Master’s thesis with a preliminary design of the RISC-V compressed instruction set [waterman-ms].

Various FPGA implementations of the RISC-V have been completed, primarily as part of integrated demos for the Par Lab project research retreats. The largest FPGA design has 3 cache-coherent RV64IMA processors running a research operating system. Contributors to the FPGA implementations include Andrew Waterman, Yunsup Lee, Rimas Avižienis, and Krste Asanović.

RISC-V processors have been used in several classes at UC Berkeley. Rocket was used in the Fall 2011 offering of CS250 as a basis for class projects, with Brian Zimmer as TA. For the undergraduate CS152 class in Spring 2012, Christopher Celio used Chisel to write a suite of educational RV32 processors, named “Sodor” after the island on which “Thomas the Tank Engine” and friends live. The suite includes a microcoded core, an unpipelined core, and 2, 3, and 5-stage pipelined cores, and is publicly available under a BSD license. The suite was subsequently updated and used again in CS152 in Spring 2013, with Yunsup Lee as TA, and in Spring 2014, with Eric Love as TA. Christopher Celio also developed an out-of-order RV64 design known as BOOM (Berkeley Out-of-Order Machine), with accompanying pipeline visualizations, that was used in the CS152 classes. The CS152 classes also used cache-coherent versions of the Rocket core developed by Andrew Waterman and Henry Cook.

Over the summer of 2013, the RoCC (Rocket Custom Coprocessor) interface was defined to simplify adding custom accelerators to the Rocket core. Rocket and the RoCC interface were used extensively in the Fall 2013 CS250 VLSI class taught by Jonathan Bachrach, with several student accelerator projects built to the RoCC interface. The Hwacha vector unit has been rewritten as a RoCC coprocessor.

Two Berkeley undergraduates, Quan Nguyen and Albert Ou, have successfully ported Linux to run on RISC-V in Spring 2013.

Colin Schmidt successfully completed an LLVM backend for RISC-V 2.0 in January 2014.

Darius Rad at Bluespec contributed soft-float ABI support to the GCC port in March 2014.

John Hauser contributed the definition of the floating-point classification instructions.

We are aware of several other RISC-V core implementations, including one in Verilog by Tommy Thorn, and one in Bluespec by Rishiyur Nikhil.


Thanks to Christopher F. Batten, Preston Briggs, Christopher Celio, David Chisnall, Stefan Freudenberger, John Hauser, Ben Keller, Rishiyur Nikhil, Michael Taylor, Tommy Thorn, and Robert Watson for comments on the draft ISA version 2.0 specification.

28.3 History for Revision 2.1

Uptake of the RISC-V ISA has been very rapid since the introduction of the frozen version 2.0 in May 2014, with too much activity to record in a short history section such as this. Perhaps the most important single event was the formation of the non-profit RISC-V Foundation in August 2015. The Foundation will now take over stewardship of the official RISC-V ISA standard, and the official website is the best place to obtain news and updates on the RISC-V standard.


Thanks to Scott Beamer, Allen J. Baum, Christopher Celio, David Chisnall, Paul Clayton, Palmer Dabbelt, Jan Gray, Michael Hamburg, and John Hauser for comments on the version 2.0 specification.

28.4 History for Revision 2.2


Thanks to Jacob Bachmeyer, Alex Bradbury, David Horner, Stefan O’Rear, and Joseph Myers for comments on the version 2.1 specification.

28.5 Funding

Development of the RISC-V architecture and implementations has been partially funded by the following sponsors.

  • Par Lab: Research supported by Microsoft (Award #024263) and Intel (Award #024894) funding and by matching funding by U.C. Discovery (Award #DIG07-10227). Additional support came from Par Lab affiliates Nokia, NVIDIA, Oracle, and Samsung.

  • Project Isis: DoE Award DE-SC0003624.

  • ASPIRE Lab: DARPA PERFECT program, Award HR0011-12-2-0016. DARPA POEM program Award HR0011-11-C-0100. The Center for Future Architectures Research (C-FAR), a STARnet center funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation. Additional support from ASPIRE industrial sponsor, Intel, and ASPIRE affiliates, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Nokia, NVIDIA, Oracle, and Samsung.

The content of this paper does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the US government and no official endorsement should be inferred.