• Offered by School of Computing
  • ANU College ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Computer Science
  • Areas of interest Computer Science, Computer Systems, Computer Engineering
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Shoaib Akram
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

This course has been adjusted for remote participation in Semester 1 2021.

This course provides a bottom-up overview of a modern computer system. It first unveils the inner workings of a general-purpose microprocessor building up from simple logic circuits. It then demystifies assembly code—the machine language spoken by the processor—and the mapping of assembly programs to higher levels of programming abstraction. With an understanding of how the microprocessor executes programs, the course then shows how a high-level programming language such as C makes those abstractions concrete, and exposes the static and dynamic structures of programs. Students learn the organisation principles of a simple microprocessor, how it can be realised in a simulator, and programmed in assembly. Students also build a non-trivial real-world application in the C programming language.

More specifically, the course covers:

  • Introduction to digital systems and logic, including Boolean algebra, logic gates, and combinational logic
  • Instruction set architecture (ISA) design principles with a specific focus on the ARM ISA
  • Microarchitecture of a simple ARM processor
  • Memory and I/O systems
  • C programming language, translation of C programs to ARM assembly, and C program runtime organization including call stack and heap
  • Basic I/O utilities in C and memory mapped I/O
  • Relationship between programming language abstractions and assembly code

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain the underlying structure and behavior of a microprocessor and the design principles of modern instruction set architectures
  2. Illustrate the memory and storage hierarchy of a modern computer system
  3. Discuss how computer systems perform simple input/output operations and interact with their environment and map assembly programs to/from a high-level programming language
  4. Design a processor for a given instruction set architecture
  5. Describe the runtime layout of C programs, including the address space, call stack, heap, and function pointers
  6. Write C programs that manipulate the heap using pointers and explicit memory management
  7. Compose non-trivial real-world applications in C using data structures allocated in the heap

Indicative Assessment

  1. Design Assignment (30) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Programming Assignment (30) [LO 5,6,7]
  3. Final Exam (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


12 taught weeks of 4 contact hours per week, including lectures, tutorials, and laboratories (related to the assignments). The approximate time commitment (including preparations and assignments) is 10 hours per week over 14 weeks (including 2 non-teaching weeks), plus the final exam.

Inherent Requirements


Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a Master of Computing or have successfully completed one of: COMP6700 - Introductory Programming COMP6710 - Structured Programming Incompatible with: ENGN2219 - Introduction to Microprocessor Systems COMP2300 - Computer Organisation COMP6300 - Computer Organisation

Prescribed Texts

  1. Digital Design and Computer Architecture: ARM Edition by David Harris and Sarah L. Harris, Morgan Kaufmann, ISBN-13: 978-0-12-800056-4 (free at https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.5555/2815529).
  2. The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference, ISBN-13: 978-0-13-110370-2.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4740
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
2484 21 Feb 2022 28 Feb 2022 31 Mar 2022 27 May 2022 In Person N/A

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