Computer Hardware Architecture and Operating Systems


This module introduces the core ideas of computer architecture for students studying the subject of computing, building a mental model of the functioning of a typical computer system that can be used to reason about system (hardware/software) behaviour – and can be extended in later modules.


The aim of this Module is to provide the student with : To introduce students to the fundamental concepts of computer architecture, and their practical relevance to system development and operation in a range of application contexts.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Describe the core elements of computer organisation common to all modern computer systems.

2.  Explain how numerical, textual, graphical and other data used in applications is represented, and use low-level operations to manipulate it at machine level.

3.  Reason about how high-level code is compiled into low-level machine instructions.

4.  Describe the key components of a typical operating system and how they support the development of applications.

5.  Explain the enabling technology that underlies the Internet of Things/embedded computing.

Indicative Content

1 Computer architecture

Principal low-level components (logic gates, logic blocks) and what they do, bus interconnections, memory, storage devices

2 Data representation

Bits, integers, floating and fixed point, text, colours, bitmaps, bitwise operations

3 Machine instructions

The von Neumann architecture, a modern CPU, arithmetic, control flow, the stack

4 Operating systems

Userspace and kernelspace, drivers, scheduling, memory management, filesystems, use of operating systems (e.g. Linux ) to support simple system management, OS level security concepts

5 Networks

Packet switching; datagrams and streams; programming with sockets

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The module is taught using a combination of lectures and practical exercises, with a one-hour lecture and a two-hour lectorial or lab each week. Lectures introduce theoretical material; this is then put into practice on appropriate hardware in the labs, with weekly guided exercises. Students demonstrate their attainment of the learning outcomes through the submission of a portfolio containing completed lab exercises.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 12
Tutorial/Seminar 0
Supervised Practical Activity 28
Unsupervised Practical Activity 28
Assessment 72
Independent 60

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.