Is implementing * and / on a logic gate scale quite a lot of work compared to addition of signed integers? Also I've noticed that as I look at the forum there are less and less posts in each subsequent chapter forum - is this because people know what they are doing by that stage or have they given up and gone away as it gets much tougher? I'm dying to get to the machine language section! :)
The simplest hardware multiplier implements the long multiplication algorithm that we leaned in primary school, but in binary rather than decimal. For instance multiplying 11 * 13 = 143:
The partial products are generated by Anding each bit of the multiplicand with each bit of the multiplier. The partial products are then summed using adders. A 16-bit multiplier will need 256 And gates to generate the partial products and 15 16-bit adders to sum them!
As to the drop out rate...
I think that the forum is mostly used by independent students. Many of them only do the hardware portion of the course because that's the part of the book that's available on line for free.
I've also seen several students who are already experienced programmers who did the hardware part of the course because they wanted to learn how their computers really worked at the low level. Those who also do the software portion don't ask many questions except for the VM Translator chapters.
Independent students with minimal programming experience often have a tough time with the VM Translator and stop there. I sometimes end up working with them via off-forum email. It seems about half of them are persistent enough to get through it.