SHE Level 1
SCQF Credit Points 10.00
ECTS Credit Points 5.00
Module Code M1H623548
Module Leader Ryan Gibson
School School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment
Subject Electronic Engineering
  • B (January start)

Summary of Content

This module introduces the fundamental aspects of computer systems, their applications and architecture. It also provides a high-level overview of the wide range of processors that are used in servers, desktop computers and embedded devices. Students will gain practical experience in the investigation of computer systems and architecture through a programme of laboratory work and tutorial study, including exposure to relevant case studies.


Overview of representative computer systems, their characteristics and constraints and software applications. The overview ranges from parallel supercomputers, servers and desktop machines through to embedded systems, personal devices and wireless-sensor networks. b7 Systems organization including distributed-systems, parallel and multi-core techniques. b7 Introduction to the wide range of processors available, their performance-levels and typical application areas. b7 Data representations in representative software languages and within a CPU. b7 The architectural building blocks of a simple CPU including registers, ALU, control unit and data-paths. The fundamentals of instruction fetch, interpretation and execution. b7 Connecting to memory and other typical I/O subsystems such as disk storage and networking devices. b7 The Bootstrap process. b7 Interrupts. b7 Organisation and performance of the memory/storage hierarchy. This overview ranges from CPU-based memory technology through to network-attached storage technologies.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:1. Describe the characteristics, constraints and performance capabilities of a representative and wide range of computer-based systems and their typical software applications.2. Understand how data is represented and manipulated by representative computer languages and CPU instruction sets. 3. Describe the microarchitecture of the basic von Neumann machine at the level of the fundamental building blocks - registers, data paths, ALU, control-unit, peripheral interface. 4. Describe the basic functionality and typical usage of representative storage devices and typical I/O devices.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The course material will be introduced through lectures, while practical exercises, based on the lecture material, will be given to students for their laboratory sessions. The three-hour practical laboratory sessions which will incorporate the tutorial activities will be instructor-led. The lab based activities (both practical exercises and tutorial activity) will be used to help explain and elaborate on both the lecture material and relate it to physical hardware. This will be used to support student's preparation for the class test at the end of the module. Tutorials will also include case studies that allow students to investigate computer systems relevant to their degree programme. The Strategy for Learning is integrated into the module in several ways. The lab based programming elements will encourage divergent thinking as they allow the development of different solutions to a problem. By the use of online programming environments and resources, personalized learning is supported. Broader and deeper learning is addressed in the deepening of the student's understanding of the specialist content as well as the broader appreciation of the wider industrial and social contexts within which programmable systems are deployed.

Indicative Reading

Clements, Alan. Computer Organization and Architecture Paperback Nelson Engineering; International ed edition (18 Feb. 2013) ISBN-13: 978-1111987084 Typical platform resources Arduino Website Robot C website and forums: Robot C interactive online tutorials :

Transferrable Skills

Critical thinking and problem solving Cognitive/intellectual skills Knowledge and understanding in the context of the subject Time management: organising and planning work Independent working Planning, monitoring, reviewing and evaluating own learning and development

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Lectures (FT) 12.00
Independent Learning (FT) 60.00
Assessment (FT) 10.00
Practicals (FT) 18.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Exam (School) n/a 100.00 40% Class test