The Harvard architecture is a computer architecture with physically separate storage and signal pathways for instructions and data. The term originated from the Harvard Mark I relay-based computer, which stored instructions on punched tape (24 bits wide) and data in electro-mechanical counters. These early machines had data storage entirely contained within the central processing unit, and provided no access to the instruction storage as data. Programs needed to be loaded by an operator; the processor could not boot itself.
Today, most processors implement such separate signal pathways for performance reasons but actually implement a Modified Harvard architecture, so they can support tasks such as loading a program from disk storage as data and then executing it.
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