The Little Man Computer
The Little Man Computer is a simple penandpaper computer that was developed by created by Dr. Stuart Madnick in 1965 to help educate people on basic computing and assembly programming.
It is recommended you complete the Knowhow Computer and its exercises before doing this one.
Setup
Materials
 Piece of paper (grid paper is best, but anything works)
 Pen
 A calculator
Preparation
Note: If you don't want to make this yourself, download the PDF from Chris Staecker's Paper Computers #2: The Little Man Computer video, which you can find in the description.
The Little Man Computer consists of an inbox, an outbox, and a set of 100 mailboxes.
Turn your paper landscape and create a grid of 10x10, taking up about two thirds of the width of the page. Each of these boxes should be numbered 00 to 99, from top bottom, left to right. Split the last third of the page in half vertically, with the top half as the inbox, and the bottom half as the outbox.
Instructions
These instructions will take a little more work to learn, as they don't come with the ease of text to help with understanding.
Code  Instruction  Meaning 

000 
END 
Stop the execution of code and end the program. 
1XY 
ADD 
Add the contents of mailbox XY to the current value of your calculator. This replaces the calculator's value with the result. 
2XY 
SUB 
Subtract the contents of mailbox XY from the current value of your calculator. This replaces the calculator's value with the result. 
3XY 
STA 
Store the value of your calculator in mailbox XY . This replaces the current value at mailbox XY . 
5XY 
LDA 
Load the value of mailbox XY into the calculator. This replaces the current calculator value. 
6XY 
BRA : Branch 
Set the next instruction to be the one contained in mailbox XY . 
7XY 
BRZ : Branch If Zero (see note) 
If the calculator contains the value 0 (or 000 to be verbose), set the next instruction to be the one contained in mailbox XY . Else, continue. 
8XY 
BRP : Branch If Positive (see note) 
If the calculator contains a positive value (between 0 /000 and 999 inclusive), set the next instruction to be the one contained in mailbox XY . Else, continue. 
901 
INP 
Move the next value found in the inbox in the calculator. This removes the value from the inbox. 
902 
OUT 
Place the value found in the calculator in the outbox. 
Inbox and Outbox
The inbox and outbox can hold multiple values in what is called a stack, where the last number that was placed in it will be the first one out. Think of it like a deck of cards, where the cards are pulled off of the top when removed, and when new cards are added, they will be added on top of the deck.
Calculator
The calculator holds a single value between 0
/000
and 999
inclusive and can ADD
and SUB
. The calculator also has three indicators that are set by the last operation it has completed: negative, if the result is below 0
; zero, if the result was exactly 0
; and positive, for if the result is between 0
and 999
.
The calculator cannot handle numbers below 0
/000
, nor any numbers over 999
. When executing subtraction, if the result ends up being below 0 (underflow), then this will cause the calculator to throw a negative flag, which would cause 7XY
to succeed and 8XY
to fail.
Mailboxes
Each mailbox can contain a number between 0
/000
and 999
. The mailboxes can contain both data upon which we are operating, as well as instructions we are looking to execute. Keep this in mind, as it's possible for our instructions to encroach on our data, and the Little Man will get confused and just stop working if he gets instructions he can't understand.
Process
The Little Man executes this process repeatedly until he runs out of stuff to do (taken from Wikipedia):
 Check the Program Counter (your pen, in this instance) for the mailbox number that contains a program instruction (i.e. zero at the start of the program).

Fetch the instruction from the mailbox with that number. Each instruction contains two fields:
 An opcode (indicating the operation to perform) and
 the address field (indicating where to find the data to perform the operation on).
 Increment the Program Counter (pen) so that it contains the mailbox number of the next instruction.
 Decode the instruction. If the instruction utilises data stored in another mailbox, then use the address field to find the mailbox number for the data it will work on (e.g. 'get data from mailbox 42').
 Fetch the data (from the input, accumulator, or mailbox with the address determined in step 4).
 Execute the instruction based on the opcode given.
 Branch or store the result (in the output, accumulator, or mailbox with the address determined in step 4).
 Return to the Program Counter to repeat the cycle or halt.
Usage
Addition
Like in the Knowhow Computer, we'll start with addition, but in this case it will be a little different. In this case, we just have an add command handy (1XY
), so how hard can it be? :)
First, we will add two numbers to the inbox to eventually get added together. Our result will be in the output, of course. We know that to add two things together, one of our values will need to already be in the calculator, and the other value will need to be found in a mailbox. So before we get to adding, we will need to do that:
 Move the next value from the inbox into the calculator.
 Store that value in mailbox 50 (this is not a significant number, any mailbox above 30 or so will be fine).
 Move the next value from the inbox into the calculator.
So now we have the two numbers in place, ready to be added. Once we have this sum, we can place it into the outbox.
 Add the number in mailbox 50 to the calculator, replacing the calculator's old value with the sum.
 Put the value in the calculator into the outbox.
Now we can convert this into instructions that the Little Man can understand. Assuming we have our two numbers we want to add in the inbox:
Mailbox  Instruction 

00  901 
01  350 
02  901 
03  150 
04  902 
05  000 
Try this out with a few different numbers as inputs. Remember, the calculator can't handle numbers above 999.
Return The Largest Number
Again we'll start by putting two numbers into our inbox. The question is: how will we know which number to return? And how can we tell the Little Man to return one thing or another based on that condition? What if we reframed the question as: which of our branching tools could help us execute one sequence of code over another based on a condition?
We have two conditional branches: branch if (the value in the calculator is) zero, and branch if (the value in the calculator is) positive. If we know these are our only branching options, and that they are both dependent on mathematical operations in the calculator, this leaves us with only two instructions that could help us solve this problem: 1XY
and 2XY
; ADD
and SUB
.
If we try using ADD
, you will see that adding two numbers in either order results in no discernable difference: 100
+ 50
is the same as 50
+ 100
. So if we know this, then we are only left with the SUB
instruction. Playing with SUB
, we can see that the order definitely does matter. 100
 50
(50
) does not equal the same as 50
 100
(50
).
So knowing that we will need to use SUB
leaves us with which branch we want to use: 7XY
or 8XY
; branch if zero, and branch if positive. If we look at the last example of 100
and 50
, we can see that one of the differences is positive and the other negative. This would lead to us using the branch if positive instruction after we perform our subtraction method.
Now that we know our tools, lets put this in plain English:
 Load one number from the inbox into the calculator.
 Store the number in our calculator into mailbox 50.
 Load the next number from the inbox into the calculator.
 Store the number in our calculator into mailbox 51.
 Subtract the number in mailbox 50 from the current value of the calculator (this number should be the same as is in mailbox 51).
 If the result is positive, return the number in mailbox 51.
 Else, return the number in mailbox 50.
Now we can translate this into code the Little Man can understand:
Mailbox  Instruction 

00  901 
01  350 
02  901 
03  351 
04  250 
05  809 
06  550 
07  902 
08  000 
09  551 
10  902 
11  000 
Challenges
 Create a program that takes four numbers from the inbox and outputs them in reverse order.
 Create a program that adds all numbers in the inbox, ending with a zero, and outputs the final sum. For example, an inbox of
[13, 426, 301, 95, 0]
would result in835
.  Create a program that squares a number and outputs the product. The inbox number must be 31 or below.
 Create a program that divides the first number in the inbox by the second. The output will be the quotient followed by the remainder.
 Create a program that takes in numbers followed by operators and calculates the result of the sequence. These operators are
401
for add,402
for subtract, and400
for equals. For example, an inbox of[20, 402, 15, 401, 95, 400]
would output100
.  Update your last program to handle multiplication and floor division (return only the quotient with no remainder).
Solutions
Assuming we have four numbers in our inbox.
Mailbox  Instruction/Data 

00  901 
01  350 
02  901 
03  351 
04  901 
05  352 
06  901 
07  902 
08  552 
09  902 
10  551 
11  902 
12  550 
13  902 
14  000 
Assuming the last number in the inbox is a zero.
Mailbox  Instruction/Data  Data Note 

00  901 

01  705 

02  108 

03  308 

04  600 

05  508 

06  902 

07  000 

08  000 
Total 
Mailbox  Instruction/Data  Data Note 

00  901 

01  315 

02  317 

03  517 

04  712 

05  516 

06  150 

07  316 

08  517 

09  218 

10  317 

11  603 

12  516 

13  902 

14  000 

15  000 
Number from inbox 
16  000 
Total 
17  000 
Times number has been added 
18  001 
The first number in the inbox will be divided by the second.
Mailbox  Instruction/Data  Data Note 

00  901 

01  317 

02  901 

03  318 

04  517 

05  218 

06  812 

07  517 

08  902 

09  519 

10  902 

11  000 

12  317 

13  519 

14  120 

15  319 

16  604 

17  000 
Number 
18  000 
Divisor 
19  000 
Quotient 
20  001 
Mailbox  Instruction/Data  Instruction/Data Note 

00  901 

01  350 

02  901 

03  252 

04  808 

05  550 
"Equals" 
06  902 

07  000 

08  715 

09  901 
"Subtract" 
10  351 

11  550 

12  251 

13  350 

14  602 

15  901 
"Add" 
16  150 

17  350 

18  602 

...  
50  000 
Total 
51  000 
Temp 
52  401 
To determine operator 
References
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_man_computer
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmOfXhgfQY&lc=UgwXIu1pFzxIC7pJyLd4AaABAg.9Slg5diLl1j9Slgcj6WvW6
 Online LMC
Backlinks
Last modified: 202204171519