What is Conditional Branching?

A conditional branch instruction is a branch instruction that may or may not generate a transmission of control that relies upon the value of stored bits in the PSR (processor status register). It provides decision-making capabilities in the control unit.

The status conditions are special bits in the system that provide parameter information such as the carry-out of an adder, the sign bit of a number, the mode bits of instruction, and input or output status conditions. Information in these bits can be tested and actions initiated based on their condition: whether their value is 1 or 0.

The status bits, together with the field in the microinstruction that specifies a branch address, control the conditional branch decisions generated in the branch logic. The branch logic hardware may be implemented in a variety of ways.

The simplest way is to test the specified condition and branch to the indicated address if the condition is met; otherwise, the address register is incremented.

This can be implemented with a multiplexer. Suppose that there are eight status bit conditions in the system. Three bits in the microinstruction are used to specify any one of eight status bit conditions. These three bits provide the selected variables for the multiplexer. If the selected status bit is in the 1 state, the output of the multiplexer is 1; otherwise, it is 0.

A 1 output in the multiplexer generates a control signal to transfer the branch address from the microinstruction into the control address register. A 0 output in the multiplexer causes the address register to be incremented. In this configuration, the micro-program follows one of two possible paths, depending on the value of the selected status bit.

Unconditional Branch Microinstruction

An unconditional branch microinstruction can be implemented by loading the branch address from control memory into the control address register. This can be accomplished by fixing the value of one status bit at the input of the multiplexer, so it is always equal to 1. A reference to this bit by the status bit select lines from control memory causes the branch address to be loaded into the control address register unconditionally.