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Addressing modes are an aspect of the instruction set architecture in most central processing unit (CPU) designs. The various addressing modes that are defined in a given instruction set architecture define how the machine language instructions in that architecture identify the operand(s) of each instruction. An addressing mode specifies how to calculate the effective memory address of an operand by using information held in registers and/or constants contained within a machine instruction or elsewhere.
In computer programming, addressing modes are primarily of interest to those who write in assembly languages and to compiler writers. For a related concept see orthogonal instruction set which deals with the ability of any instruction to use any addressing mode.