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Unit information: Advanced Computer Architecture in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Advanced Computer Architecture
Unit code COMSM0109
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. McIntosh-Smith
Open unit status Not open

COMS11700, COMS12400



School/department Department of Computer Science
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


This unit aims to teach the recent developments in computer architecture. This unit aims to introduce a range of advanced topics in computer architecture, focusing mainly on high performance processors but including recent or ``hot topics (e.g., low-power design). A student completing the unit should gain an appreciation of how various design decisions can improve quality (according to a metric such as performance, area or power consumption) which extends the output of previous units that focus mainly on functionality. Due to the unit remit, the syllabus is somewhat flexible, and could include: High performance processors: pipelining, hazards, bubbles, branch prediction, delay slots, target buffers, separate instruction units, superscalar, multiple issue, out of order completion, instruction reordering, register renaming, register windows. Other forms of parallelism: multi-core, multi-threading via SMT and HyperThreading. Application specific processors: stack processors, vector processors, VLIW, DSP, instruction set extensions for multimedia and cryptography. Specific processor designs: x86, ARM, SPARC, MIPS. Selected topics: low-power design, security, virtualisation, advanced computer arithmetic, bridging the memory gap.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will: understand the issues in high performance processor design; appreciate alternative, domain-specific processor design challenges.

Teaching details

The unit is taught in 20 lectures, supported by lab work. The lab work concentrates on implementing a simulator for a high performance processor. A further 80 hours are nominally set aside for coursework, private study, etc.

Assessment Details

By examination (50%) and assessed coursework (50%)

Reading and References

  • D Sima, T Fountain and P Kacsuk. Advanced Computer Architectures: a Design Space Approach. Addison Wesley Longman. 1997. ISBN: 0201422913 Essential (Amazon)