Course syllabus


  • COMPSCI 105 or COMPSCI 107 or COMPSCI 130


  • None

Course Description

The low-level representation of data and algorithms in the computer. An introduction to computer organization. The instruction execution model. Assembly and disassembly of instructions. Assembly language programming. How a high-level language is implemented at the machine level. Hardware support necessary to implement a secure multi-user operating system.

Staff involved in the course


  • Dr. Bruce Sham
Room 303.588
Office hours: whenever I am around or email me for appointment

  • Dr. Xinfeng Ye
Room 303.589 
Office hours: whenever I am around or email me for appointment


    Class Representatives

    Course Outcomes

    A student who successfully completes this course should be able to:

    • describe elemental data structures, including characters, strings, signed & unsigned integers (various sizes), and pointers
    • convert between various representations of a number
    • describe the range and limitations of representations of numbers
    • describe the execution of basic instructions at the instruction set architecture level
    • write simple assembly language programs
    • describe the assembly process and the information that is contained in assembly language instructions
    • explain the concept of a pointer and distinguish between the value of a pointer and the entity pointed to 
    • write simple programs in C
    • describe how an operating system and high-level languages provide abstractions that simplify the programming of complex systems
    • describe how the features of virtual memory, user/kernel mode, interrupts and exceptions make it possible to implement a secure multi-user system

    Lecture Schedule

    • What is the computer system?
    • Bits and integer representation
    • Character and string representation
    • Arithmetic operations
    • Logic operations
    • Logic gates
    • Combinational logic
    • Storage elements
    • Sequential logic
    • The von Neumann model
    • An Instruction Set Architecture (ISA)
    • Assembly language
    • Input and Output including interrupts
    • Traps
    • Subroutines
    • Memory stack
    • Introduction to programming in C
    • Mapping C variables and operators to an ISA
    • Mapping C Control Structures to an ISA
    • Mapping C functions to an ISA
    • Handling C function calls
    • Mapping C pointers and arrays to an ISA
    • Mapping C structures to an ISA
    • Handling C’s dynamic memory allocation
    • User/kernel mode
    • Hardware support for context switching
    • Hardware support for synchronization
    • Exceptions
    • MMU and virtual memory
    • Caching


    Requirements for passing

    In order to pass the paper, you must:

    • Pass test and exam combined - the pass mark is 50%
    • Get an overall pass of 50%

    N.B. The assignments and quizzes are worth 30% and if you don't do them you are automatically losing 30%. Also, the test and exam will have questions based on the work in the assignments and quizzes. If you miss them you are making it very difficult to pass the course.

    Laboratories (Tutorials)

    There are labs every week, beginning in week two. There are no marks associated with the labs but you will get experience and assistance with understanding the material and programming in LC-3 assembly language and C.

    Assignments and quizzes  (1, 2, 3)

    The assignments and quizzes are worth 30% in total. (Numbers in brackets refer to corresponding BSc Graduate Profile themes.)

    Test (1, 2, 3)

    There is one test which is worth 20% of your final mark.

    Please go to your allocated room. Failure to do this incurs a 10% penalty. 

    • Date: 2019-09-20
    • Time: 18:30
    • Venue: 
      • PLT1/303-G20
      • MLT1/303-G23

    Exam (1, 2, 3)

    The final exam is worth 50% of your final mark. Please check Student Services Online for the exam time and date. The exam is closed book, and calculators are not permitted. Provisional exam results can be obtained from Student Services Online.

    There are a number of places where you can seek assistance with your learning.

    Office Hours

    All staffs have office hours when they are available to students (see above). You are encouraged to come and discuss any matters arising from the course during those hours. Staffs are also frequently available at other times.

    Lecture Recordings

    All lectures are recorded. There may be a delay of 1-2 days before the lecture recordings are distributed through Canvas. Note that although the lectures are recorded, some learning activities conducted in class do not translate well to the recordings. To maximize your learning opportunities, you are encouraged to attend the class in person.

    Discussion Forums

    The Piazza discussion forums within Canvas are regularly monitored by teaching staff. Please make use of the forums to ask any questions that you think might be of interest to other students. If your question is of a personal nature or relates to a unique situation that will be of little interest to others, then please contact the teaching staff directly.


    Introduction to Computing Systems: From Bits and Gates to C and Beyond, 2/e
    Yale N. Patt, the University of Texas at Austin
    Sanjay J. Patel, the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

    Help with Canvas

    For help with Canvas see:

    Handling illness or absence

    If you must leave for family emergencies etc., PLEASE talk to the lecturer, or somehow get a message to the department. Very few problems are so urgent that we cannot be told quite quickly.
    For problems affecting assignments or tests, see the lecturer, as soon as reasonably possible.
    For illness, during exams (or other problems that affect exam performance) students MUST contact the University within one week of the last affected examination, to apply for an aegrotat pass (for illness) or compassionate pass (other problems). The one week limit is strictly enforced.
    Refer to the University information about Aegrotat and Compassionate Considerations:

    Academic Integrity
    The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting his or her learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the world-wide-web. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against electronic source material using computerized detection mechanisms. Upon reasonable request, students may be required to provide an electronic version of their work for computerized review.
    Please refer to

    Course summary:

    Date Details