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Can anyone give a review of cscie-93 computer architecture course? Is the course same as cs 61or how different is it? How is the teaching, hardness and is it useful course to take?

Thank you


  • isinyaginisinyagin Posts: 12
    It's definitely not as exciting as CS61. I'd say it's much more time consuming and much more frustrating because you need to work with a real hardware and debugging hardware sucks - you don't have gdb or even printf. You need to build some kind of replacement - use LEDs or switches or write a driver to print something out on the display, etc. I personally didn't enjoy it at all, but a couple of people in the class had a lot of fun.

    Next, the first part of the course focuses on digital logic and goes pretty deep (even deeper than CS141 - the college alternative). Again, I felt that we dived too deep into "un-layering" how computer works. I was much more interested in CPUs, understanding modern pipelining techniques and algorithms and advanced caching rather than reading about digital logic and gates design. The second part was much more relevant to computer architecture but there wasn't enough time to cover interesting modern topics (see the previous paragraph).

    Pencil and paper assignments were boring (digital logic). The CPU/instruction set project was interesting to design and to write a simulator for, however implementing it in VHDL was extremely frustrating and not rewarding (at least for me) because it required a lot of time to be spent on serial port I/O and very basic conversion from characters to integers and back in assembly (an extremely error prone exercise). I'd rather built a more sophisticated simulator as a final project with caching, 5-stage pipelining and branch prediction, SIMD, NUMA - understanding how these things work is much more relevant to a software engineer than the knowledge about serial ports and how to write basic assembly.

    Despite all that, Dr.Frankel is a wonderful instructor, very passionate and knowledgable with tons of industry and teaching experience. You'll have almost unlimited office hours if you're a local student. He has good TFs though the feedback on assignments with grades came about 2 months after the submission when you already had forgotten what the assignment was about.

    A more appropriate name for the course would be Digital Design and Computer Hardware and it should probably be under EE category, not CS.

    I wish the course focused less on digital logic, didn't touch actual hardware and VHDL and covered modern computer architecture theory and details that are important to know and understand for systems programmers.
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