Computer Systems

Module code: CO1016

While modern computers are complex devices, there are a small number of key components from which the majority of computers are composed. This module will provide you with a broad picture of a modern computer, covering key hardware and software components.

Very roughly speaking, hardware refers to physical artefacts such as a keyboard or memory chip, and software to programs which are stored using magnetic or electrical systems (although we shall see that we need to be a little more precise). We will concentrate on hardware, and look briefly at ‘simple/low-level’ software.

You will learn details of computer arithmetic (arithmetic calculations take place when almost any program runs), processors (we look at a single core in this introductory module) and memory (circuits for storing data). We will investigate the design of fundamental circuits, together with the details of many of the basic hardware circuits which are built from the fundamental circuits. We will also look in detail at how computers perform simple arithmetic, covering the theory and also the actual circuits. We will examine the circuit details of a very small (single core) processor and the program instructions that it executes. This complete description of a single core processor will prepare you for further material about full-scale modern multi-core processors.


  • 30 hours of lectures
  • 10 hours of surgeries
  • 10 hours of problem classes
  • 2 hours of class tests


  • Coursework (15%)
  • Exam, 3 hours (85%)