CS 2GA3/SE 3GA3  (Fall 2012)

* * * This outline is distributed at the time of the first class and is constantly updated. Students should consult this page regularly for all information relevant to this course * * *


Dr. George Karakostas
ITB/218, ext 26132, Mac address: karakos
Office hours: Tue 5:30 - 7:30 pm

Course Assistance

Mehrdad Alemzadeh, Mac address: alemzam, Rm. ITB/204 or the OLE LAB, Office hours: Wed 1:30 - 3:30 pm
Behzad Akbari,
Mac address: akbarib, Rm. ITB/224, Office hours: Tue 2:00 - 4:00 pm


Term I, 2012/13
Tu, We, Fr 12:30 - 13:20, Rm.  HSC/1A6


Session 1:  Th 14:30 - 16:20, Rm. BSB/B103
Session 2:  Mo 14:30 - 16:20, Rm. ABB/163

Course Objectives

In this course, we will study the concepts that are the basis for modern computer organization and microprocessor design. These include performance measurements, the instruction set, computer arithmetic, data path, control, pipelining, memory hierarchy, and I/O systems. Our focus will be the design of the hardware/software interface (i.e. the Instruction Set Architecture) with an emphasis on Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture.


One of COMP SCI 1MD3 or ENGINEER 1D04.



Outline of Topics (Tentative list of topics per week)

Major components of a computer and their design issues: performance measurement, instruction set, datapath, control, computer arithmetic, pipelining, memory hierarchy, cache, virtual memory, I/O devices, parallelism (if time permits), introduction to graphics processors.

Student Assessment (Grading)

Policy on collaboration for homework assignments: Collaboration on the homework assignments is highly encouraged, within reasonable limits. Students are expected to discuss assignment problems with each other, and to cooperate on solutions in groups of no more than 6 people. However, the final write-up should be done by individual students (i.e. individual students should be able to explain their solutions if such an explanation is asked for by the instructor) and the names of the collaborators should appear on the paper. Cooperation and teamwork are necessary for the success of any complex task (the design of computer systems being one such task), and it is the instructor's hope that students will come to appreciate them in a constructive way. Please see the instructor if you need someone to collaborate with.

Policy on delayed assignments: Assignments delivered between the lecture they were due and the following lecture get 50% of total credit. After the following lecture, no credit given.

Policy on collaboration during exams: ABSOLUTELY NO COLLABORATION DURING EXAMS!!!


Textbook: J.L. Hennessy and D.A. Patterson, "Computer Organization and Design-The Hardware/Software Interface", 4rd Edition, Morgan Kaufmann Publisher.

Reference: G. Kane and J. Heinrich, "MIPS RISC Architecture", Prentice-Hall, 1992.

Academic Dishonesty

"Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other
fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of
zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript
(notation reads:  "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or
suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic
dishonesty.  For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty
please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, specifically Appendix 3,
located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:
1.    Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one's own or for which other credit has been obtained.  (e.g. submitting a copy of someone else's writeup for an assignment)
2.    Improper collaboration in group work. (e.g. collaboration between groups in an assignment)
3.    Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations."


Faculty Notices

"The Faculty of Engineering is concerned with ensuring an environment that is free of all discrimination.  If there is a problem, individuals are reminded that they should contact the Department Chair, the Sexual Harrassment Officer or the Human Rights Consultant, as the problem occurs."
"The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes."


Assignment 1 (Due before beginning of Wed. 26/9 lecture):  The questions are here. Solutions are here.

Assignment 2 (Due before beginning of Fr. 12/10 lecture): The questions are here. Solutions are here.

Assignment 3 (Due before beginning of Fr. 19/10 lecture): The questions are here. Note that some of the exercises require you to read carefully the Fallacies and Pitfalls sections in the textbook. Solutions are here.

Assignment 4 (Due before beginning of Tue. 6/11 lecture): The questions are here. Solutions are here.

Assignment 5 (Due before beginning of Fri. 16/11 lecture): The questions are here. Solutions are here.

Assignment 6 (Due before beginning of Fr. 30/11 lecture): The questions are here. Solutions are here.

To read the assignment files, you'll need the Adobe Reader, which is here.


The lecture slides are a collection of textbook figures and other material. David Patterson's lecture slides from his course at University of California, Berkeley are here.