The MIPS ISA is a simple instruction set that is broken up into three distinct types of instructions, all 32-bits in length:

  • R-Type or Register MIPS instructions are used for most arithmetic and logic operations
  • I-Type or Immediate instructions are used primarily for data transfer and immediate operations using constants
  • J-Type or Jump instructions are used to jump the program to the specific instruction, such as in a loop

Along with the instruction types, it also details that each CPU will have 32 registers, each capable of holding a 32-bit piece of data. MIPS operates on data that is stored in the register or with a 16 bit ‘immediate’ piece of data. Immediate data is typically a constant that can be sent to the processor so it doesn’t need to take up space in a register.

MIPS is often used in distributed/embedded technologies because of its RISC architecture and concise instruction set. Some advantages to this in a small system include limited space requirements, increased battery life, and little to no customer interaction.

Instruction Format

Here is a sample R-type instruction:

000000 00000 00000 00000 00000 000000 op rs rt rd shamt func

All R-type instructions use this instruction format according to the MIPS documentation. This example introduces several abbreviations above in the machine code/instructions. They will be used throughout the rest of this lesson, so let’s define them now:

Abbreviation Definition
rs first source register
rt second source register
rd destination register
shamt bit shift amount
func extra bits for additional functions



Create a new variable, answer1, and set it equal to the answer of:

  • How many bits long is a MIPS instruction?

Create another variable, answer2, and set it equal to the answer of:

  • How many types of instructions are there in MIPS?

Finally, create another variable, answer3, and set it equal to the answer of:

  • What is the abbreviation used for the destination register?

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