Unit 37: Architecture

Unit code R/615/1681
Unit level 5
Credit value 15


The aim of this unit is to provide students with knowledge about computer systems, functionality and organisation. Systems architecture and elements of computing machines will be examined and the principles and fundamentals of how computer systems work. Computer architecture engineers work in industries such as telecoms, automotive and aerospace.

This unit introduces students to the hardware and software architecture of computer systems and low-level language program development using CPU registers to manipulate data. Students will explore how program instructions and data types can be represented, stored in a computer system and used to carry out a computing task.

Among the topics included in this unit are: computer architecture elements, CPU instruction sets, fetch-execute cycle, CPU registers, binary calculations, use of PC and stack, reading/writing to peripherals, architectural security aspects including protected memory segmentation and synchronous/asynchronous channel I/O operations, parallel machines, emerging computer architectures and security considerations.

As a result they will develop skills such as communication literacy, critical thinking, analysis, reasoning and interpretation, which are crucial for gaining employment and developing academic competence.

Essential Content

LO1: Examine the functions of computer system components

  • Component functions:
  • Logical/physical component functions; Clock Synchronisation; Processor (CPU), buses, memory maps and IRQ; Boolean logic gates; adder circuits; analysis of how components interact to carry out the fetch-execute cycle and modify data; definition and use of CPU registers. I/O device memory.

LO2: Discuss how data and programs can be represented within computer systems

  • Data/program representation:
  • Program/data representation and storage; description, use and storage of data types integer, decimal and character; absolute/relative program location; firmware/software.

LO3: Demonstrate the principles of processor operations

  • Principles of processor operations:
  • Low-level program instruction sets; RISC; development of assembler programs (including at least 1 JMP instruction) to manipulate stored data using CPU registers; I/O memory and IRQ locations.

LO4: Investigate advanced computer architectures and performance

  • Advanced Architectures:
  • Advanced Architectures; MIMD parallelism (Flynns Taxonomy), Cache, instruction/graphics pipelining; unconventional architectures; benchmarking; functional unit mix, IRQ latency.