CSC 286 Computer Architecture
Syllabus and Resources

Instructor: Jan Pearce C.P.O.: 1815
Office: 103 Draper
Office Hours:
MRF 1:00-2:30 PM, and
MTWF 8:30-9:00 AM,
W 1:00-2:00 PM
Please feel free to drop by at other times-- I am in
my office a great deal and always happy to help!

The Course Description

This course provides students with a basic understanding of digital circuits for computer systems, the structuring of these components into CPU, memory and I/O subsystems, and the organization of these subsystems into complete computer systems. The course material represents a blend of both theoretical concepts and real-world implementations.

The Course Goals
  • To apply principles of combinational and sequential logic analysis and to employ some common performance metrics and understand their limitations.
  • To learn to describe the concepts, implementation, use, and performance characteristics of caching and virtual memory.
  • To analyze various architectures and implementation techniques such as single-cycle, multi-cycle, and pipelined CPUs for performance characteristics.
  • To describe the instruction set architecture of computer systems and the interrelationship of machine code, assembly language and logic circuits.
  • To understand the relationship between high level languages, assembly language, and machine implementations of assembly language.
  • To apply register transfer concepts to the analysis and design of computer systems.
  • To learn to more effectively communicate computational concepts to others.

The System of Evaluation


Test 1
Test 2
Test 3
Quiz Total
Final Exam


14.3 %
14.3 %
14.3 %
14.3 %
14.3 %
28.5 %

90-100 %
80-89 %
70-79 %
60-69 %
0-59 %



Please refer to the GRADING section of the current Berea College Catalog for the College-wide interpretations of these letter grades.

The Class Atmosphere

The members of this class constitute a learning community. Learning in such a community best takes place in an atmosphere in which instructor and the students treat everyone with mutual respect. Students need not always raise their hands in order to ask questions or to make comments, but they should not interrupt the instructor or fellow students in doing so. Students typically find the atmosphere set by the instructor to be a sometimes playful and nearly always relaxed one, but students will still need to work hard and consistently both in and out of class in order to do well. If at anytime you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions about how the class atmosphere could be improved or made into one which is more supportive of your learning, please come by or drop me a note about it. I welcome such suggestions.

The Course Home Page
Our course home page is located at
Use this page as a resource to find this syllabus and other course-related information.
The Text

The text is Computer System Architecture by Mano. We will cover most of chapters 1 through 7, and possibly some additional topics from this text.

The Tests and Quizzes

Tests and frequent short quizzes will be given in this course. Approximately one announced quiz will be given each week in which there is no test. In general, the announced quizzes will consist of questions on the assigned text readings or homework-like problems.

The three test dates are not pre-scheduled as the instructor believes it is very important that students have input into when the tests are held. However, the tests will fall approximately in the following weeks:

  • First Week of March
  • First Week of April
  • First Week of May
Problems that appear on the tests will be more varied in nature, ranging from homework-like problems to problems that require a deeper synthesis of ideas and from true or false questions to short-answer questions.
The Final Exam

The comprehensive final exam will be during the regularly scheduled final exam period, May 22, from 1:00 to 2:50 P.M. By Berea College policy, no instructor can reschedule a final exam on his or her own, so please plan now to take it then.

The Grading Policies

For the benefit of the students in the class, all course grade computations are continually updated by the instructor, so students may check frequently on their in-progress course grade during the term.

Cool Policy After having completed all work prior to the final exam and before dropping any points or receiving any bonuses, any student who is receiving an A or B on the above maximum scale using the appropriately weighted set of tests, quizzes, homework, and labs and who is satisfied with her or his grade, may elect to receive that grade as a final grade and will not be required to take the final exam. So that all are in agreement, this decision must be discussed in advance with the instructor.
Cool Policy For students taking the final exam, the lowest score earned on one 100 point exam score, quiz total or homework and lab item will be dropped before computing the final grade. If the lowest percentage score is earned on the 200 point final exam, then one half of the final exam score will be dropped.
Cool Policy A student's final grade may be raised above her or his earned percentage grade if in the instructor's opinion the student shows significantly improved work in the course or on the comprehensive final exam.

The Homework/Lab Bonus
Cool Policy Homework, including laboratory work, will be assigned on a regular basis, since doing homework thoughtfully and conscientiously is one of the keys to success in this course. Through homework and labs, students get the needed practice of application of the concepts. Because the instructor desires to strongly encourage a diligent effort on homework and labs, students who turn in each of their homework and lab assignments with no more than two assignments submitted late, will be awarded an additional 10% on the homework/lab grade!

On Homework/Laboratory Collection

All written work should be neat, organized, and should show sufficiently many steps to demonstrate a clear understanding of the techniques used. Homework, including laboratory work, is due at the beginning of class on the announced date due. If a student must miss class due to either a sickness or a planned absence, homework is still expected to be submitted on time. Assignments may be requested in advance.

Late assignments will be accepted for reduced credit up until the homework or lab is returned, and late work must be labeled as late. Written or printed homework or lab assignments may be turned in before class or at the instructor's office, but should NOT be sent through the CPO, attached in ccMail, or given to a student assistant. A selection of the assigned homework and lab problems will be graded for credit, and assignments not meeting the above standards may receive reduced credit.

On Teamwork

Cool Policy Learning to work in teams effectively is strongly encouraged. Some homework and lab assignments will be specifically designed for teamwork, others for individual work, but on most homework and labs you can choose to work alone or in a team. All homework and lab assignments must clearly include all of the authors' names at the top of each page. On any assignment in which half or more of the work was completed in a team, a single copy of the assignment should be handed in with all of the team's participants listed as authors. Teams can generally consist of one or two members, or three members for non-laboratory work in this course. Unless otherwise stated, teams shall not consist of more than three members for most work. On any assignment where less than half of the work was completed in a team, individual assignments should be handed in with the author acknowledging all of the help received for each problem. This includes significant help received from the instructor or teaching assistant. Note that the instructor or teaching assistant may help with homework or labs, and while this help should not be acknowledged as co-authorship, it should still be mentioned. This is meant to be a sharing process; do not "give credit" to other students who have not attempted to contribute to the work or to the team's work, because it is ultimately not a help for the student who did not contribute to the work. Thoughtful practice, not (even mindful) copying, is ultimately the best way to learn. Note that on all team-completed assignments, students must describe the roles played by each author on the assignment.
Warning: Please be careful to conform to these standards for teamwork, since they are designed to encourage good learning practices. (Furthermore, copying another's work or otherwise failing to adhere to these standards may even result in a charge of academic dishonesty.)

The Attendance Policy

Class lectures, discussions, and laboratory work are considered to be vital keys to success in this course. It is the hope of the instructor that class sessions are both informative and useful, therefore attendance is expected at each class session unless a specific exception is made. This policy will be enforced in several ways. Quizzes may be announced or occasionally "popped," and because the lowest quiz grade will be dropped, under nearly all circumstances, make-up quizzes will not be given. Likewise, make-up tests will under almost no circumstances be given, so missed tests will therefore count as the student's dropped 100 points. Absences from class are noted, and repeated absences will adversely affect the student's grade. The final grade may be lowered by one third of a letter grade for each absence after the fourth. Thus, it is the responsibility of the student to speak to the instructor about each absence from class. This should be done as soon as possible, and if at all possible before the absence occurs. Students who miss class are held responsible for all of the material covered, assigned, and collected during their absence.

For Additional Help

There may be no teaching assistant for this course. Students are strongly encouraged to make use of the help available on-line as well as in the instructor's office hours. Best results are obtained trying to solve problems alone or in a group before asking for help, so in either place, students should be prepared to show what they have already tried. Topics in this course build throughout the course, so students should be sure to do their best to keep up with the class, so as to not get behind and possibly forever lost. Remember, no question to which one does not know the answer is ever "dumb" unless it goes unanswered because it remained unasked.

To the Berea College Math Department: