CSC 304 - Computer Architecture

Shai Simonson    306 Stanger    (508) 565-1008



Lectures:  MWF 8:30 - 9:20, 209 Stanger

Text:  Computer Organization and Design, 5th edition, by Patterson and Hennessy, Elsevier.  Instructor site.

Course Description:  What goes on behind the scenes after you compile your program?  Students learn how a computer is put together, and the relationship between the hardware and the instruction sets.  We study the MIPS machine language and the high level organization of a fully pipelined modern RISC machine:  including: ALU design, CPU design, pipelining, memory organization, cache and virtual memory, I/O, and methods of measuring the effectiveness of these features.

Goals:  To understand the gap between programming and computer hardware design. To appreciate how understanding computer architecture will make you a better programmer.

Exams:  There will be one midterm (25%) and one final examination (35%).  The final will be on Tuesday, May 8, 9:00 AM.

Assignments:  Homework assignments and programs are worth 40% of your grade.   You should do these with a partner, and one grade will be given to both people in each group.  All programs should be written using SPIM, a simulator for the MIPS architecture.  You can download your own copy of SPIM for whatever computer you own.  PCSpim, an old version for PCs, should already be loaded on the machines in the lab and it is what I use, but there is a new multi-platform version called QtSpim.  If you download PCSpim, make sure that the settings are set as shown below so that the programs I run in class will all work. In QtSpim, you need to uncheck MappedI/O.

You should demo your programs for me personally. For written problem sets, you should hand them into me personally (before midnight of the day they are due).  Late assignments will not be accepted or graded.  Finally, read our department's academic integrity guidelines before you submit any written work or demonstrate any programs.

Warning about the book's exercises:
  The book's problems may seem vague and/or difficult at first glance.  Ask me if you have any doubts about how to do a problem.  I will review any solution one on one or in class, as you prefer.

Grading:  Your grade is 25% midterm, 40% homework, and 35% exam.  You can guarantee an A- or better with 90%, a B- or better with 80% etc.  I may curve these numbers in your favor, if I feel it is warranted.

Special Dates:  There will be no lecture Friday, April 6 due to Passover.

Reference Links 

Download SPIM           SPIM Quick Reference           MIPS Opcode LookUp              MIPS Floating Point and IEEE 754             Online Binary Calculator

Sample Programs + Other Handouts

         Software:   Strings    IO     Multiply     Avg    Traverse_array   Branches     Loops       Palindrome       Long_mult       Sort         Address modes
Methods in MIPS -  Recursive Factorial and Stack Trace

Hardware:           MultiCycleDataPath           FiniteStateMachineMultiCycle          SingleCycleDataPath
Practice Adding Instructions to MultiCycle Implementation              Practice with Cache and Virtual Memory


Reading Assignments:  These assignments explain why programmers should know architecture.  Read them the first week of class, and read them again after the tenth week.  I mean that!  You will learn a lot each time.  If you get anything out of this class, the notion that architecture is important for programmers should be it!
Written Assignments and Programming:    Assignment 1   Assignment 2   Assignment 3    Assignment 4    Assignment 5   Assignment 6   Assignment 7

Brief Syllabus




CISC versus RISC.  Measuring Performance.
Why do Programmers Need to Know About Computer Architecture?

Chapter 1,
Online1 Online2


Intro to SPIM Simulator Basics:  Instructions, Data, and Directives. 
Basic MIPS Assembly Language:  Arithmetic and Memory Operations, Control Structures, Arrays.

Chapters 2 and 3
Data Representation -  Two's complement, Sign Magnitude,  Floating Point, ASCII.

Chapter 3

More MIPS:  Registers and Address Modes.  Data Structures, Stacks, Procedures, Stack Frames, Run-time Stack, Parameter Passing.

Chapter 2, Appendix E.1-3

Machine Language and MIPS Instruction Formats.   Assemblers - One and Two Pass.

Chapter 2,  Appendix A:1-11


Midterm Examination.                  

Friday, March 23


Data Path and Control Architecture - Single versus Multi-cycle. 
MultiCycleDataPath  FiniteStateMachineMultiCycle  SingleCycleDataPath
Hardwired vs. Microprogramming.

Chapter 4: 1-4,  Appendix D: 1-5,
My Links (see left)

Pipelining -  An Efficient CPU, Performance Measures, Hazard Handling.  Implementation.
Chapter 4: 5-8

Memory Architecture - Hierarchical Structures:  Cache and Virtual Memory.

Chapter 5: 1-8
(If time allows) Cloud Computing and Parallel Processing

Chapter 6