This paper explores a novel way to incorporate hardware-programmable resources into a processor microarchitecture to improve the performance of general-purpose applications. Through a coupling of compile-time analysis routines and hardware synthesis tools, we automatically configure a given set of the hardware-programmable functional units (PFUs) and thus augment the base instruction set architecture so that it better meets the instruction set needs of each application. We refer to this new class of general-purpose computers as PRogrammable Instruction Set Computers (PRISC). Although similar in concept, the PRISC approach differs from dynamically programmable microcode because in PRISC we define entirely-new primitive data path operations. In this paper, we concentrate on the micro architectural design of the simplest form of PRISC—a RISC microprocessor with a single PFU that only evaluates combinational functions. We briefly discuss the operating system and the programming language compilation techniques that are needed to successfully build PRISC and, we present performance results from a proof-of-concept study. With the inclusion of a single 32-bit-wide PFU whose hardware cost is less than that of a 1 kilobyte SRAM, our study shows a 22% improvement in processor performance on the SPECint92 benchmarks.