Computer Architecture

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Catalog Descriptions of Course

This course introduces students a broad technical description of computer hardware and system software. Topics that are most useful to Computer Information Systems students are stressed at an appropriate level of detail. This course provides a technical foundation for systems design, systems implementation, hardware and software procurement, and computing resource management.


bulletStudents will be able to describe the uses of technical knowledge about computer hardware and system software.
bulletStudents will be able to demonstrate an understanding of computer hardware technology and architecture.
bulletStudents will understand the role of system software
bulletStudents will be able to describe data representation in terms of coding formats and digital signals.
bulletStudents will be able to demonstrate understanding of the architecture of the central processing unit (CPU) and of primary storage.
bulletStudents will have clear understanding of primary and secondary storage implementation with electrical and optical technologies.
bulletStudents will be able to describe communication among computer system components and various methods of performance enhancement.
bulletStudents will be exposed to I/O devices including keyboards, pointing devices, printers and plotters, video display terminals, graphic displays, optical scanners, and audio devices.
bulletStudents will understand the steps to develop applications programs using higher level languages and other applications development tools.
bulletStudents will be able to describe operating systems and detailed descriptions of resource allocation, processor control, process and thread management, and memory management.

Outline of Course Content

Computer technology: acquiring and configuring technology devices and computer systems. IS development life cycle: systems survey, analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation and maintenance. Management of computer resources. Roles and job titles: users, applications development personnel, system software personnel, hardware personnel, systems management personnel. Sources of Information about Computer Technology.

Automated Computation: mechanical, electrical and optical implementations. Computer processors. Computer System Capabilities: processor, storage and communication functions. Computer System Components. Classes of Computer Systems. Performance measurements and design factors.

The role of software. Economics of software development. Programming languages: machine, assembly and high-level programming languages. Types of system software. Parallel hardware/software development.

Computer data representation and transport. Binary data representation. Goals of computer data representation. Integer, real, character, and Boolean data. Memory addresses and data structure.

Storage alternatives and trade-offs. Primary storage devices. CPU memory access. Managing storage. Optical mass storage devices.

Data encoding methods. Transmission media. Channel and media organization. Coordinating communication

bulletIntroduction to Computer System Architecture
bulletComputer Hardware
bulletComputer Software
bulletData Representation
bulletData Storage Technology
bulletData and Network Communication Technology
bulletNetwork and Distributed Systems


Method of Evaluating Students

Homework/lab assignments

30 %

One out of two midterm exams

20 %

Term Project

20 %

Final Exam (Comprehensive)

30 %


100 %

Bonus points (Attendance): 2 % deduction for each missing class. See the Policies section below for details.

4 %

Approximate cutoff points:

92 - 100 %


90 - < 92 %


88 - < 90 %


82 - < 88 %


80 - < 82 %


78 - < 80 %


72 - < 78 %


70 - < 72 %


68 - < 70 %


62 - < 68 %


60 - < 62 %


< 60 %



Attendance: Students are expected to arrive on time and be in class every class meeting. Other commitments or conflicts with attending classes and the starting time for the course are irrelevant -- you knew when you signed up for the course and its assigned class time.

You will be awarded with 4 % bonus points for perfect attendance, which corresponds to three no-penalty absences. If you have a death in the family, car problem, illness, vacation, business trip or anything else that keeps you from attending class, you use your three no-penalty absences. Beyond two absences, each class missed will result in 2 points being subtracted from your course grade. No exceptions will be made for anybody for any reason. For example, if you would have earned an 88% for the course but you missed three times, your final grade would become 86%. Do not bother to call in, leave a note or e-mail me if you miss class because no exceptions will be made to anybody for any reason. If the college closes due to a snowstorm or other emergency, these days will not count against your absences. Arriving in class 15 or more minutes late will count as an absence.

Makeup material from missed lectures is the student¡¯s responsibility. The student is responsible for being aware of all announcements made during his/her absence. Doctor must verify extended medical absence and missed assignments are due the day you come back from absence.

Homework: Students are expected to hand in all of their homework assignments and projects at the beginning of the class on the assigned day. There will be one extra homework assignment given. Missing one assignment or one low grade will not influence your semester average. No assignment will be accepted late. Doctor must verify extended medical absence and missed assignments are due the day you come back from absence.

Term Project: A single research project will be required of each student. The project will require investigation of a new hardware or software technology or product. A paper will be required. The requirements for this assignment are fully described in a separate document.

Midterm Exams: Two mid-exams will be given, with the higher exam grade out of two being used in the calculation of your semester grade. Missing one exam, or making one low grade, will not influence your semester average, as your final average will be determined using the other grade. If you are pleased with your first exam grade, you do not have to take the second midterm exam. No make-up exams will be given.

Final Exam: A comprehensive final exam will be given. No make-up exam will be given.

Academic Honesty: Students are expected to complete all exams and specified assignments without aid. Examination or project assignments which, in the determination of the instructor, have been copied will not be graded. You are not allowed to use classroom computers for other than lecture related applications in class.


Burd, Stephen D., Systems Architecture: Computer Hardware and Software in Business Information Systems, second edition, Course Technology, Incorporated, 1998.

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