COSC474-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Special Topic

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


Special Topic

COSC474-23S2 Special topic: Computer Architecture and Parallelism

Description: An advanced course for computer science and software engineering students on computer architecture, concurrency and parallelism (principally at a system level – bit, instruction and thread level). Topics covered include: CPU design, problems in parallelism, structures to improve performance (superscalar and cache design), VHDL/Verilog (programming), and examples of specialised designs (such as GPUs).

Pre-requisites: ENCE260 Computer Systems

Learning Outcomes

1. Students will understand (able to describe and critique) system-level designs of computer architecture (including superscalar, RISC, CISC, VLIW and cache designs)
2. Students will be able to implement architectural designs in VHDL/Verilog (eg. cache controller)
3. Students will be able to analyse problems in parallelism and concurrency (mutual-exclusion, race-conditions, idempotence, locks, Tomasulo’s algorithm and Peterson’s algorithm)
4. Students will be able to demonstrate research skills, through literature search and review, in the space of computer architecture.
5. Students are able to propose experiments to advance a concept in computer architecture.


Subject to the approval of the Head of Department

Timetable 2023

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 10:00 - 11:00 Jack Erskine 239
17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 09:00 - 10:00 Jack Erskine 240
17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct
Workshop A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 14:00 - 16:00 Jane Soons 608
17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct

Timetable Note

Time Commitment: 150 hours
• 24hr Lecture hours (2x1hr/week – 12 weeks)
• 10hr Laboratory – formal help sessions on VHDL and Verilog programming (5x2hr/week – 5 weeks)
• 30hr Self directed learning (lecture prep)
• 70hr Project work
• 16hr Test and Examinations (including prep time)

Course Coordinator

Andrew Bainbridge-Smith

Lecturer: Andrew Bainbridge-Smith, Senior Lecturer Above the Bar
Lecturer: Professor Dali Wang, Erskine Fellow from Christopher Newport University, Virginia, USA


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Project 60%
Mid-Semester Test 20% 90 minutes
Final Exam 20% 90 minutes

Approximate Agenda:
1. General computer architecture - Introduction, gate design to simple computing units, VHDL/Verilog
2. Memory organisation - Memory hierarchy, cache design
3. Concurrency and parallelism - bit, instruction and thread parallelism; mutual-exclusion; race-conditions; idempotence; locks; Tomasulo’s algorithm and Peterson’s algorithm
4. Specialised architectural designs - Superscalar, multithreading
5. Unconventional designs - systolic-arrays, number systems and arithmetic, hardware NNs
6. GPUs - concepts and uses
7. Quantum computing* - concepts and uses – This topic is yet to be confirmed

An individual project where the student is required to undertake a scholarly review of an approved topic in computer architecture.  The student will be required to produce a written report including:
• an explanation of the topic aimed at peers in the course (Learning Outcome 1)
• a literature review on the topic, preferably including a meta-review and a number of recent publications in the area (Learning Outcome 4)
• an implementation (or salient part thereof) in VHDL/Verilog of the topic – outline of the design in the report, with actual code as a supplementary submission (Learning Outcome 2)
• to conduct some basic performance measurements of their implementation and to report on these (Learning Outcome 5)

The project work is supported by a weekly 2 hour workshop session where both VHDL and Verilog programming is introduced to students.  Students are only required to develop and implement their design ideas in one of the languages for their project, but are expected to develop understanding in both.

Mid-Semester Test & Final Exam:
These tests, aimed as assessing Learning Outcomes 1-3, will be designed to ensure students have adequate breadth of understanding and knowledge of the entire course.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,079.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Computer Science and Software Engineering .

All COSC474 Occurrences

  • COSC474-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023