(sometimes called a meta-assembler) is a computer program
that helps prepare a microprogram
to control the low level operation of a computer in much the same way an assembler
helps prepare higher level code for a processor
. The difference is that the microprogram is usually only developed by the processor manufacturer and works intimately with the hardware. The microprogram defines the instruction set
any normal program (including both application programs
and operating systems
) is written in. The use of a microprogram allows the manufacturer to fix certain mistakes, including working around hardware
design errors, without modifying the hardware. Another means of employing microassembler-generated microprograms is in allowing the same hardware to run different instruction sets
. After it is assembled, the microprogram is then loaded to a control store
to become part of the logic of a CPU
's control unit
Some microassemblers are more generalized and are not targeted at a single computer architecture. For example, through the use of macro-assembler-like capabilities, Digital Equipment Corporation used their MICRO2 microassembler for a very wide range of computer architectures and implementations.
If a given computer implementation supports a writeable control store, the microassembler is usually provided to customers as a means of writing customized microcode.