Computer Laboratory

Course pages 2011–12

Advanced Computer Design

Principal lecturer: Dr Simon Moore
Taken by: MPhil ACS, Part III
Code: P34
Hours: 16 (8 lectures + 8 practicals)
Prerequisites: Some training in VHDL or Verilog HDL and computer architecture


This module aims to provide an understanding of multithreaded multiprocessor architecture research using FPGAs as an emulation platform.


  • Introduction to Bluespec hardware description language [2 lectures and 1 practical]
  • Implementing a RISC processor in Bluespec [2 lectures and 1 practical]
  • Timing critical circuits and bus interfacing [1 lecture and 1 practical]
  • On-chip networks: implementation and analysis [1 lecture and 1 practical]
  • FPGA processor emulation techniques and a comparison with software simulation [2 lectures and 1 practical]
  • Analysis of multiprocessor designs [3 practicals]


On completion of this module, students should:

  • understand how to design and implement a multiprocessor system;
  • appreciate how to instrument a design to obtain research results;
  • understand how to design using Bluespec;
  • appreciate the pros and cons of using FPGA emulation vs. software simulation.


Write a 10-page research paper including results from a computer architecture study based on the practical component of the course.

Practical work

Design and use processor emulation hardware using FPGAs in order to obtain research results.


The research paper will be graded (75%).
The practical work will be reviewed with the student (a short oral) (25%)

Recommended reading

Harris, D.M. & Harris, S.L. (2007). Digital design and computer architecture. Morgan Kaufmann.
Hennessy, J.L. & Patterson, D.A. (2006). Computer architecture: a quantitative approach. Morgan Kaufmann (4th ed.).