Standardized interfaces play an important role in many industries; for example, a processor's instruction set architecture (ISA) defines the interface between hardware and software. A stable, well-defined interface facilitates independent innovation on both sides of the boundary. Unchanging (or slowly changing) ISAs have meant that new programming languages, compilers, and applications can run on old computers. At the same time, new computers, with improved microarchitectures, can run existing programs faster.
Recently, however, processors have been extended with a wide range of architecturally visible features that change their ISA, for example, support for vector processing, virtual memory, cryptography, and secure execution.
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