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Mark Sheldon (mark.sheldon at olin dot edu) and Alex Morrow (alex.morrow at olin dot edu)
Lorraine Weis and Ann Wu
Computer Architecture!

MTh 10:00 – 11:50

AC 304
Because ECEs have to. Because you couldn't think of a better class to take, otherwise.


Office Hours

Mark: TTh 1300 – 1430 and by appointment. Alex: TBA


Patterson, Hennessy, Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface, Fourth Edition, Morgan Kaufmann. http://www.amazon.com/Computer-Organization-Design-Fourth-Architecture/dp/0123744938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251853999&sr=8-1Amazon Link. Samir Palnitkar’s Verilog HDL: A Guide to Digital Design and Synthesis is also recommended but not required.

Both texts are on reserve.

Engineering, Math, and Physics Foundation. Programming background strongly recommended.
Topics Covered
Introduction to computer architecture, algorithms, hardware design for various computer subsystems, CPU control unit design, memory organization, cache design, and virtual memory.
The major goals of the class are to familiarize you with basic structure of microprocessors. As part of this, students will develop a Verilog implementation of a simple RISC microprocessor based upon the MIPS instruction set.
There will be one midterm. Or not.

There will be a final team project. Deliverables will be based on the project, but will include a formal writeup and a presentation to the class. Both the writeup and final presentation will be due Wednesday 15 December 4–7pm in AC 304.

At your own risk :).
Laptop Use
Please feel free to bring your laptop, but leave it closed and off during class.
The class will have the following approximate schedule. Material may be added or dropped based on class timing and progress.
  • Introduction to processor architecture. Performance measures.
  • Assembly language programming.
  • Computer Arithmetic.
  • Processor Datapaths & Control.

  • Pipelining.
  • Memory hierarchy, caches, virtual memory.
  • Advanced topics in computer architecture.
By the end of the course, students should be able to:
  • design, build, and simulate a working processor
  • write programs in assembly and machine code
  • describe complex hardware systems in Verilog
  • analyze, comprehend, and critique commercial and research processors
  • research and give an oral presentation on an advanced topic in the field of computer architecture
  • analyze and calculate the tradeoffs of implementing optimizations
Groups of 2-3 for labs, individual for homework. For any other assignments, details will be given.
  • For the labs the intention is to work primarily with your partners. If you run into problems, discussion with your classmates is fine. If you use classmates outside of your group, please note who they are on your submissions. I am also readily available to answer questions.
  • For homework, the intention is to work primarily alone. If you are stuck, or need help, discussion with your classmates is fine. Again, please annotate who you collaborated with on a per-problem basis. I am happy to take any questions regarding homework in my office, or via email.
  • The design of this policy requires good self-monitoring. If you are constantly relying on others to help you through the problems, there is something amiss. The collaboration policy is designed to foster discussion and group learning.

2013-08-01 15:09