What are Program Control Instructions?

Instructions of the computer are always stored in consecutive memory locations. These instructions are fetched from successive memory locations for processing and executing.

When an instruction is fetched from the memory, the program counter is incremented by 1 so that it points to the address of the next consecutive instruction in the memory. Once a data transfer and data manipulation instruction are executed, the program control along with the program counter, which holds the address of the next instruction to be fetched, is returned to the fetch cycle.

Data transfer and manipulation instructions specify the conditions for data processing operations, whereas the program control instructions specify the conditions that can alter the content of the program counter.

The change in the content of the program counter can cause an interrupt/break in the instruction execution. However, the program control instructions control the flow of program execution and are capable of branching to different program segments.

Some of the program control instructions are listed in the table.

Program Control Instructions

Compare (by Subtraction)CMP
Test (by ANDing)TST

The branch is a one-address instruction. It is represented as BR ADR, where ADR is a mnemonic for an address. The branch instruction transfers the value of ADR into the program counter. The branch and jump instructions are interchangeably used to mean the same. However, sometimes they denote different addressing modes.

The conditional branch instructions such as ‘branch if positive’, or ‘branch if zero’ specifies the condition to transfer the flow of execution. When the condition is met, the branch address is loaded in the program counter.

The figure depicts the conditional branch instructions.

The compare instruction performs an arithmetic subtraction. Here, the result of the operation is not saved; instead, the status bit conditions are set. The test instruction performs the logical AND operation on two operands and updates the status bits.