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CS 330 Syllabus

Computer Architecture & Operating Systems

Spring 2017

CIS Department

Saint Vincent College

General Information

  • 3 credits
  • Prerequisite: CS 111
  • Instructor: Brother David Carlson
  • Office: Dupre Science Pavilion, Tenley Hall W217
  • Office hours:
    • Mon, Fri 9:00 am - 10:20 am
    • Mon 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    • Tue, Thus 9:00 am - 9:50 am and 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm
    • and by appointment
  • Phone: 724-805-2416
  • Email:
  • The CIS lab in W214 of the Dupre science complex will be available according to this schedule that will also be posted on the bulletin board outside our lab. This schedule shows you which tutor is staffing the lab at what times. Some of the tutors have probably had this course before, so see them or your instructor if you need assistance.
  • No required text. Those who are interested in further reading might consider:
    • Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective, 3rd ed., Bryant and O'Hallaron, Prentice Hall (2016), ISBN 978-0-13-409266-9.
    • The Essentials of Computer Organization and Architecture, 4th ed., Linda Null and Julia Lobur, Jones & Bartlett Learning (2015), ISBN 978-1284045611.
    • A Practical Guide to Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming, 3rd. ed., Sobell, Prentice Hall (2012), ISBN 978-0133085044.
    • A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, 7th ed., Sobell, Prentice Hall (2014), ISBN 978-0133477436.


This course is designed to cover the main concepts of computer architecture (organization) and operating systems as well as a few practical IT tasks (such as scripting) with server operating systems. A multilevel machine approach to computer organization is used, with particular emphasis on the microprogramming level, the conventional machine level, and the operating system level. A simulator will be used to allow students to try microprogramming and machine language programming. The operating systems part of the course covers key operating system concepts and algorithms. In addition, it uses Linux as a case study, emphasizing system administration tasks, Linux utilities, pipes, and bash scripts.

Why Take This Course?

This is a required course for CIS majors, although non-majors sometimes take the course. It is intended to provide students with sufficient background in computer architecture and operating systems to allow them to function competently as computing professionals. Scripts are covered in part because they are heavily used in the real world for system administration. Although there will continue to be a large amount of change in the details of computer organization and the specifics of operating systems, many of the concepts and methods learned in this course will apply for years to come. The scripting and other system administration topics learned in this course would be especially useful for those looking for employment where Linux is used in the IT world.

The Prerequisite

CS 111 is listed here so that students will have some knowledge of computers, the software development process, and the Windows operating system. No knowledge of assembler language or C++ is needed as a prerequisite for this course, but a background in some type of programming (such as that provided by CS 111) is needed.

No Required Text

The instructor will provide the course material for the architecture part of the course as well as for the operating systems concepts. The instructor's microprogramming simulator will be used for part of the course. Other material will be provided as web pages, files on the course network drive, handouts, etc.

Core Goals

This course contributes especially toward the following core curriculum goals, listed in order of emphasis:

  1. To form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis
  2. To develop mathematical skills and quantitative literacy
  3. To develop effective communication skills
  4. To foster historical awareness (in the field of computer architecture and operating systems, in this case)

CIS Department Student Outcomes

This course contributes mainly to the following departmental student outcomes listed in order of emphasis.

  1. An ability to apply knowledge of computing and mathematics appropriate to the program's student outcomes and to the discipline
  2. An ability to use current techniques, skills, and tools necessary for computing practice
  3. An ability to design, implement, and evaluate a computer-based system, process, component, or program to meet desired needs
  4. An ability to analyze a problem, and identify and define the computing requirements appropriate to its solution
  5. An understanding of professional, ethical, legal, security and social issues and responsibilities
  6. An ability to analyze the local and global impact of computing on individuals, organizations, and society

Course Goals and Means of Assessment

  1. By the end of the course, students will be able to explain the major concepts involved in computer architecture and operating systems.
  2. By the end of the course, students will be able to write small microprograms as well as machine-language programs and to modify the microprogram interpreter to implement a new machine-language instruction (designed and chosen by the student).
  3. By the end of the course, students will be able to explain the implementation of function calls and parameter passing at the machine-language level.
  4. By the end of the course, students will be able to perform certain typical Linux server administration tasks (such as adjusting file and directory permissions, using a script to automate a task, setting a script to run automatically at a set time).
  5. By the end of the course, students will be able to use the most common Linux commands and to write short bash scripts.
  6. By the end of the course, students will be able to solve basic theory of operating systems problems (such as CPU scheduling problems).
  7. By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze some of the effects of computers, computerized devices, and operating systems on individuals, local communities, and global society and be aware of the responsibilities of those who write operating systems to consider professional, ethical, social, and security issues in their work.

These goals will be assessed through exams and homework assignments. The homework assignments will involve problem solving, Mic-1 and Mac-1 programming, and (for the second goal) a contest to modify the microprogram interpreter. Informal discussions with students provide additional feedback.

Methods Used to Reach These Goals

Lecture, class activities, and class discussion are used to assist students in mastering the course material. Homework assignments and various hands-on activities are designed to allow students to grow in their understanding of the topic. Exams provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Finally, the contest mentioned above allows students to demonstrate their creativity, their mastery of machine language and microprogramming, and their ability to communicate in writing what they created.

Grading and Course Policies

  • 30% First Exam
  • 30% Second Exam
  • 30% Final Exam
  • 10% Homework

Some homework assignments will be collected and graded. The microprogramming contest will have the weight of three regular homework assignments. If there are any other homeworks that have a higher than normal weight, that will be announced in class. Letter grades will be assigned according to the scheme found in the current College Bulletin. Exams will be announced in advance and will be of the open book/open notes type. You must still be well-prepared for exams as it is not possible to look up how to solve every problem in the time given. Cell phones, laptops, and other devices should be turned off and put away during exams. The use of calculators is encouraged, but calculators are not to be shared among students during an exam. On exams, one can use pens, pencils, calculators, and erasers, plus one's notes, handouts, homework problems and answers, and similar papers.

Both the instructor and students are expected to do their best to produce a good class and to treat each other with respect. This includes many factors, such as listening when someone else is speaking, trying to understand what others are saying, being of assistance to others, etc. It definitely does NOT include making fun of others. On a practical level, do your best to improve your grade: read the course materials, attend class, do the homework, ask questions, and try to answer questions in class! Computer science requires active participation and repeated practice. If you begin to feel lost, consult one of the tutors, see the instructor, or work through the difficulties with the help of another student in the course. Do not let yourself get behind. In fact, one key to academic success is to start early on homework and other tasks. Last-minute miracles seldom work! Note in particular that attendance is expected. Student performance is bound to deteriorate when classes are missed. Largely in order to emphasize the importance of attendance, the policies outlined after this paragraph will be used.

  1. If the student does not attain a passing average in the test category, a failing grade will be received for the course.
  2. Each unexcused class absence after the first 4 results in 1 percentage point being deducted from the final course grade.
  3. Arriving late for class or leaving early (without a proper excuse) is counted as 1/2 of an absence.
  4. An unexcused absence from an exam results in the failure of the course.
  5. Unexcused absence from more than one-third of the semester's classes results in the failure of the course.
  6. Attendance is used to decide borderline grades at the end of the semester.
  7. Late work is not accepted unless resulting from an excused absence, but partial credit is given for incomplete homework that is submitted on time.
  8. Written documentation (such as a note from a doctor's office or coach of one's sports team) is normally required for an absence to be excused. Always bring a copy of such a note to give to your instructor when you can do so. In special circumstances, check with your instructor, as it is not always possible to get documentation.

Make-up exams are strongly discouraged. If possible, take the regularly scheduled exam. For an excused absence or other significant reason, the instructor may agree to give a make-up exam. Whenever possible, see your instructor ahead of time if you know you must miss an exam (e.g. due to sports). Normally some type of written documentation is required (such as a note from the coach, doctor, etc.). If the documentation or reason for missing an exam is poor, the student can count on receiving a significantly more difficult exam, if one is given at all! Do ask about a makeup exam if you have a good reason to miss an exam, even if documentation is not readily available, as it is understood that illnesses and other complications do happen.

Exams will ask critical thinking questions that require careful analysis, explanation, and the development of reasonable conclusions. For example, you might be asked to explain the overall effect of executing a certain section of microcode. That requires you to first understand the details of the microcode and then to abstract from these a high-level explanation of what the microcode does. Other questions will ask you to summarize the actions produced by certain operating systems algorithms or to analyze two or more such algorithms and decide which is better or more efficient in some sense.

Homework will be similar to the questions just mentioned. Although the problems and programs are short, they can be very detailed. As such, they require careful work and sometimes cannot be completed in one sitting. Since there are different types of assignments in this class (paper assignments, programs, etc.) the way in which they are collected will vary. Pay attention to the instructions for each assignment in regard to how the assignment is to be turned in and when it is due. Exceptions to homework deadlines are only granted for serious reasons and normally require written documentation of the reasons.

Most of the homeworks for this course will not be individual ones. Thus, you will be able to consult with other students in the class about how to solve them and even to look at some of each other's work. (Do not simply copy someone else's solution, however, as you learn very little from that.) Note well that the microprogramming contest and perhaps certain other homework will be individual homework where you may not consult other students in the class, share code, etc. Such homeworks will be clearly marked as individual ones.

Intellectual honesty is important at Saint Vincent College. On individual assignments as well as exams, attempts to pass off the work of another as one's own, or group work as one's individual work, etc. will result in action appropriate to the seriousness of the situation. If there is some doubt as to whether or not you solved a homework or test question yourself, you may be asked to explain the solution. If you can do so, that provides good evidence that you did do the work yourself. All cases of apparent intellectual dishonesty will be referred to the administration. If the administration does not say what to do about the grades in such a case, the first offense will involve a significant grade penalty (such as a grade of zero on the assignment or exam), while a second offense may result in failure of the course. In this course, students are expected to do entirely their own work on tests and any homework designated as individual homework. Note, too, that copying someone else's work does little to help you to learn the material. Remember that you are responsible for knowing how to solve the homework problems and that you will have to face the test questions on your own.

Be sure to read and follow the CIS Department Policies, available under the CIS Department web site. (This statement covers especially the proper use of departmental computing facilities, policies concerning your web pages, academic honesty, etc.) Be sure to read the Regulations section of the College Bulletin (which covers such things as grading, academic honesty, etc.) and the Student Handbook (which covers academic honesty, classroom etiquette, etc.).

Students with disabilities who may be eligible for academic accommodations and support services should please contact the Associate Dean of Studies, Mrs. Sandy Quinlivan, by phone (724-805-2371), email ( or by appointment (Academic Affairs-Headmaster Hall). Reasonable accommodations do not alter the essential elements of any course, program or activity. The Notification of Approved Academic Accommodations form indicates the effective date of all approved academic accommodations and is not retroactive.

If the instructor needs to cancel class, every effort will be made to send an email message to students' Saint Vincent email accounts.

Maintained by: Br. David Carlson
Last updated: January 14, 2017