ECE 3504 Principles of Computer Architecture | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


Instruction formats and construction. Addressing modes. Memory hierarchy (cache, main memory and secondary memory) operation and performance. Simple pipelines. Basic performance analysis. Simple Operating System (OS) functions, particularly as they relate to hardware. Virtual memory. Computer Input/Output (I/O) concepts, including interrupt and Direct Memory Access (DMA) mechanisms. Intercomputer communication concepts. Processor design.

Why take this course?

Computer systems play an integral role in all facets of the engineering profession. Systems users are always in need of faster, more powerful, yet cheaper computer systems. This course provides an understanding of the processor-level components of computer systems, their design and operation, and their impact on the overall performance of the systems. Further, the course lays out the basic functions of an operating system as they relate to computer hardware.

Learning Objectives

  • 1. Identify the elements of modern instructions sets and explain their impact on processor design,
  • 2. Identify and explain the function of basic elements of a modern processor, including instruction pipelines,
  • 3. Explain the function of each element of a memory hierarchy,
  • 4. Identify and compare different methods for computer I/O,
  • 5. Explain the basic functions of an operating system and the hardware mechanisms that support these functions, and
  • 6. Compare simple computer architectures and organizations based on established performance metrics.

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

1.Introduction to Computer Systems, Architecture Classifications, Computer Performance Measurement 15%
2.Central Processor • Instruction Sets & Operands •Fetch-Execute Cycle •Simple Pipelining •Control Unit Operation 35%
3.Computer Memory Hierarchy •Physical Memory Operation •Virtual Memory Operation •Cache Operation 25%
4.Computer I/O, Computer I/O Concepts, Computer Bus Operation 10%
5.Basic Operating System Functions, Multi-tasking, Virtual Memory, Hardware support mechanisms 15%