Unit 51: Computer Systems Architecture

Unit 51: Computer Systems Architecture 







Unit code:J/601/2003

QCF Level 3:BTEC National

Credit value:10

Guided learning hours:60







Aim and purpose

To enable learners to understand the underlying architecture and components behind the functioning of computer systems.


Unit introduction

All computer systems share the same underlying computer architecture principles. This unit examines these principles and explores the fundamentals of how computer systems work. Learners will focus on the technical detail including how the components function at an electronic level.

Learners will explore how various types of data can be represented and then stored within computer systems. This is followed by a study of the low-level system components. It includes the processor, buses and memory incorporating an analysis of how these components interact to manipulate data using the fetch-execute cycle. Low-level program instructions make up the
fetch-execute cycle and simple assembly code instructions are investigated along with their interaction with the various registers that make up the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Learners will have the opportunity to develop simple programs in a low-level language.


Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit a learner should:

1     Understand how data can be represented within computer systems

2     Understand the functions of computer system components

3     Understand the principles of processor operations


Unit content




1     Understand how data can be represented within computer systems

Numeric data: conversions between different representations of data; representing integer numbers in different number bases; converting between number bases using integer numbers eg denary to binary, denary to hexadecimal, binary to hexadecimal; performing arithmetic operations in different number bases; representing fixed-point numbers in different number bases; representing floating-point numbers in binary

Boolean logic: logic gates; truth tables; use of logic gates in integrated circuits; logical operations eg AND, OR, NOT, NAND, NOR, XOR

Coding of data: sign and magnitude; two’s compliment; floating point; binary coded decimal; coding of character data eg ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

Types of data: representing bit patterns for different types of data eg graphics, video, audio and other data; graphics eg bitmap (resolution, colour depth, file calculations), vector (objects, properties); sound (compression, sampling resolution, sampling rate, streaming audio, quality); video (compression, encoding, streaming, quality); analogue data; digital data; analogue signals; digital signals; data conversion eg analogue to digital; file formats eg mp3, mp4, wav, avi


2     Understand the functions of computer system components

Key components: Central Processing Unit (CPU); memory; interfaces; clock; buses, diagrammatic representation; Von Neuman architectures

Central Processing Unit: control unit; ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit); general purpose registers; special purpose registers eg instruction pointer, accumulator; core eg single, multiple; features eg pipelining, multiprocessing, parallel processing; polling; interrupts

Memory: I/O maps; Direct Memory Access (DMA); ROM (Read Only Memory); cache; RAM (Random Access Memory) eg static, dynamic, flash

Buses: system bus; address bus; control bus; physical connections to components eg Central Processing Unit, memory, input/output (I/O) devices, system buses

Peripherals: types eg hard disc, printer, scanner, network card


3     Understand the principles of processor operations

CPU instruction sets: Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC); Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC); clock rate; performance levels

Addressing: modes eg immediate; relative; address bus; addressing in the fetch-execute cycle

Machine operations: how they are organised and represented; role of the instruction decoder; low-level programs; assembly code instructions eg fetch, load, add; decision making and branching; using registers, transferring data between registers, fetch-execute cycle; program storage; data storage; addressing





Assessment and grading criteria



In order to pass this unit, the evidence that the learner presents for assessment needs to demonstrate that they can meet all the learning outcomes for the unit. The assessment criteria for a pass grade describe the level of achievement required to pass this unit.



Assessment and grading criteria



To achieve a pass grade the evidence must show that the learner is able to:



To achieve a merit grade the evidence must show that, in addition to the pass criteria, the learner is able to:


To achieve a distinction grade the evidence must show that, in addition to the pass and merit criteria, the learner is able to:


P1 explain using examples how numeric and alphanumeric data can be coded within a computer system









P2 explain using examples how different types of data can be converted and stored in computer systems









P3 convert numeric data between different number systems including floating point

M1 explain using examples how floating point numbers can be represented in binary





P4 carry out Boolean logic operations









P5 illustrate the key computer system components and how they interact










P6 explain the different types of memory that can be attached to a processor



M2 compare the roles played by different types of memory


D1 explain how the processor is physically connected to memory and input/output (I/O) devices using the system buses



P7 explain how polling and interrupts are used to allow communication between processor and peripherals














Assessment and grading criteria



To achieve a pass grade the evidence must show that the learner is able to:



To achieve a merit grade the evidence must show that, in addition to the pass criteria, the learner is able to:


To achieve a distinction grade the evidence must show that, in addition to the pass and merit criteria, the learner is able to:


P8 compare Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) chips and Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) chips










P9 illustrate the use of the different processor registers in the fetch-execute cycle.



M3 create a low-level program which includes decision making and branching.


D2 explain how the width of the data bus and address bus affect processor performance and complexity.







 Essential guidance for tutors




Delivery

It is recommended that this unit is delivered either after or in conjunction with Unit 2: Computer Systems.

Simulation software could be used extensively in this unit for example to develop learners’ understanding of logic gates and low-level programming. Other software that simulates the internal operation of the processor would also be valuable to confirm learners understanding.

Alternatively, a software application that simulates a simple CPU and an associated assembly language could be used. This type of software usually covers the basic elements of assembly language programming. Learners are able to put the theory into practice using the simulator to run programs in a controlled way, seeing all CPU activity step by step.

LO1 should be delivered using a series of worksheets to deliver the maths theory and Boolean logic operations. It’s important to link the number theory to computer activity, noting that at the lowest level binary represents the off/on nature of electricity. For example, hexadecimal is a user-friendly way of representing binary and is used in electronics and computing. Use of binary and hexadecimal in IP addressing (versions 4 and 6) could be demonstrated.

For LO2 and LO3, the CPU can be introduced as the part of the computer architecture that runs computer programs. This is facilitated by the fetch-execute cycle and this could be explained in conjunction with a simple assembly language program that, for example, adds two numbers together. This could then be used to introduce learners to the different registers that make up the CPU. The functions of the various buses and the different types of memory could then be covered.









Outline learning plan

The outline learning plan has been included in this unit as guidance and can be used in conjunction with the programme of suggested assignments.

The outline learning plan demonstrates one way in planning the delivery and assessment of this unit.



Topic and suggested assignments/activities and/assessment


Introduction to the unit

How data is represented within a computer system:

•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on numeric data, followed by practical exercise •      whole-class exercise tutor presentation on coding of data, followed by practical exercise
•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on representing analogue data, followed by practical exercise
•     a mixture of practical exploration of the technologies, learner exercises, case studies and detailed investigation.


Assignment 1 The Devil is in the Data

Low-level components of computer systems:

•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on architecture components, followed by practical exercise
•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on processors, followed by practical exercise •      whole-class exercise tutor presentation on busses, followed by practical exercise
•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on memory, followed by practical exercise

•     a mixture of practical exploration of the technologies, learner exercises, case studies and detailed investigation.

Processor operations:

•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on the operation and use of logic gates, followed by practical exercise
•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on representation of gates and logical circuits, followed by individual exercise
•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on gate and logic circuits, followed by practical exercise
•     mixture of practical exploration of the technologies, learner exercises, case studies and detailed investigation.







Topic and suggested assignments/activities and/assessment


Assignment 2 The Data Driver

Low level programming:

•     whole-class exercise tutor presentation on low-level programs, followed by practical exercise •      whole-class exercise tutor presentation on addressing modes, followed by practical exercise •      individual exercise research into uses of low-level programs
•     learners will need access to practical resources and suitable technology, they can also use simulators or multimedia tools to gain prior experience before handling ‘live resources’ if available.


Assignment 3 Low-level Programmer



Assessment

To achieve a pass grade, learners must achieve the nine pass criteria listed in the grading grid.

To achieve a merit grade, learners must achieve all of the pass grade criteria and the three merit grade criteria.

To achieve a distinction grade, learners must achieve all of the pass and merit grade criteria and the two distinction grade criteria.

Suggested Assignment 1 The Devil is in the Data

For P1, appropriately designed short test questions could show understanding; alternatively some worked examples in a controlled open book environment would be appropriate. Whatever method is used, learners must explain in their own words how data can be coded, and must use examples within their explanation.

For P2, learners could use combinations of diagrams, and descriptions that show coverage of the different types of data in the unit content. Alternatively, a presentation and demonstration could be appropriate.

P3 could be assessed through conventional testing, however learners do not need to be 100 per cent correct in all conversions in order to achieve this criterion but they must eventually show competence. Evidence of learners’ workings should be provided.

For P4, learners must carry out Boolean logic operations as specified in the content. This could be assessed through conventional testing as long as the criterion is covered. Evidence of learners’ workings must be provided.

For M1, learners could investigate for example, single and double precision floating point and show how numbers are stored in 16, 32, 64 bit etc registers.




Suggested Assignment 2 The Data Driver

For P5, a complex and annotated diagram or series of related diagrams could be appropriate, perhaps stored in a web page with appropriate detail stored in hot spots. Confirmation of learners understanding could be gained using a discussion, which if suitably documented could also be part of the evidence.

For P6, a written report, presentation or web document could be used to explain the different types of memory attached to a processor.

For M2, learners could look at the role of processor cache memory, main memory and DMA.

For D1, learners could produce a diagram showing schematically the connectivity between processor and I/O devices with an explanation of, for example, how a document is printed or how a file is retrieved from disk.

Suggested Assignment 3 Low-level Programmer

For P7, written responses to a series of scenarios could be used to generate evidence.

For P8, learners could research the different types of chips and look at the performance advantages and disadvantages of each.

For P9, learners could show diagrammatically the different registers involved in running a simple programme that, for example, adds two numbers together incorporating the fetch-execute cycle.

For M3, learners should produce listings of the programs, together with a statement from the tutor confirming that the program is valid.

For D2, learners could research bit sizes of current address and data buses and explain the effect these have on performance








Programme of suggested assignments

The table below shows a programme of suggested assignments that cover the pass, merit and distinction criteria in the assessment and grading grid. This is for guidance and it is recommended that centres either write their own assignments or adapt any Edexcel assignments to meet local needs and resources

Criteria covered


Assignment title


Scenario


Assessment method


P1-P4, M1



The Devil is in the Data


A series of mathematical exercises based on number conversions using different representations of data.

A series of Boolean algebra exercises demonstrating use of logic diagrams.


Website/portfolio

Presentation






P5, P6, M2, D1



The Data Driver


A company requests a report illustrating how the key computer system components and how they interact. A further extension to explain different types of memory, and the role they play in computer systems.


Poster

Presentation






P7-P9, M2, M3, D2



Low-level Programmer


A company requests further information about the relationship with the processor and peripherals. The company wants a comparison of RISC and CISC to help their understanding of computer systems architecture.
A company asks you to demonstrate assembly programming by creating a simple low-level program for a specific need.


Documentation

Working program







Links to National Occupational Standards, other BTEC units, other BTEC qualifications and other relevant units and qualifications

This unit forms part of the BTEC in IT sector suite. This unit has particular links with the following unit titles in the IT suite:



Level 2


Level 3


Level 4

Unit 3: Computer Systems

Unit 2: Computer Systems

Unit 2: Computer Systems



This unit maps to some of the underpinning knowledge from the following areas of competence in the Level 2 National Occupational Standards for IT (ProCom):

•     4.1 Systems Architecture.


Essential resources

Learners must have access to practical resources and suitable technology, they can also use simulators or multimedia tools to gain prior experience before handling ‘live resources’ if available.


Indicative reading for learners

Textbooks

Blum R Professional Assembly Language Programming (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) ISBN-10 0764579010, ISBN-13 978-0764579011

Gaura E, Hibbs D and Newman R Computer Systems Architecture (Lexden, 2008) ISBN-10 1904995098, ISBN-13 978-1904995098

Goodstein R Boolean Algebra (Dover, 2007) ISBN-10 0486458946, ISBN-13 978-0486458946

Website

freecomputerbooks.com/compscArchitectureBooks.html




















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