How Computers Work

Includes the basics of digital logical design, computer organization and architecture including assembly language, processor design, memory hierarchies and pipelining. Students examine the detailed construction of a very simple computer. Problem sets use Beta-Sim, a RISC simulator written by Mike Wessler. A higher level view of a modern RISC architecture is studied, using the Patterson and Hennessey introductory text, from both the programmer's point of view and the hardware designer's point of view. The distinction between RISC and CISC architectures is emphasized.
  • Philosophy and Roadmap, Simple Programs, Beta ISA
  • Storage Allocation, Stack Discipline, Calling Conventions
  • Unpipelined Beta, Exceptions
  • Implementing the ALU
  • Implementation of Beta Memories
  • Synchronous Finite State Machines (FSMs)
  • Flip flops, Asynchronous FSMs, Dynamic Discipline, Timing
  • Arbitration and Metastability
  • Static Discipline, Transistor-level design
  • Physics of Communication and Computation
  • Latency vs. Throughput, Explicit Parallelism
  • Pipelining the Beta, Hazards, Stalling, Anullment
  • Caches
  • Virtual Memory, Cache Coherence, Integration of Caches
  • Communications Networks
  • Explicitly Parallel Machines, Future Machines

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