Von Neumann Architecture

What Does Von Neumann Architecture Mean?

A von Neumann architecture machine, designed by physicist and mathematician John von Neumann (1903–1957) is a theoretical design for a stored program computer that serves as the basis for almost all modern computers. A von Neumann machine consists of a central processor with an arithmetic/logic unit and a control unit, a memory, mass storage, and input and output.


Techopedia Explains Von Neumann Architecture

The von Neumann machine was created by its namesake, John von Neumann, a physicist and mathematician, in 1945, building on the work of Alan Turing. The design was published in a document called “First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC.”

The report described the first stored-program computer. Earlier computers, such as the ENIAC, were hard-wired to do one task. If the computer had to perform a different task, it had to be rewired, which was a tedious process. With a stored-program computer, a general purpose computer could be built to run different programs.

The theoretical design consists of:

  • A central processor consisting of a control unit and an arithmetic/logic unit
  • A memory unit
  • Mass storage
  • Input and output

The von Neumann design thus forms the basis of modern computing. A similar model, the Harvard architecture, had dedicated data address and buses for both reading and writing to memory. The von Neumann architecture won out because it was simpler to implement in real hardware.


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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.