Computer Laboratory

Course material 2010–11

Computer Fundamentals

Principal lecturer: Dr Steven Hand
Taken by: Part IA CST, Part IA NST, Part I PPS
Past exam questions
Information for supervisors (contact lecturer for access permission)


The overall aim of this course is to provide a general understanding of how a computer works. This includes aspects of the underlying hardware as well as how we represent information, and how we can program a computer at the lowest level.

Supporting Material

The course comprises 6 lectures given M/W/F at 10:00 in Arts School Room A, starting in Michaelmas on Friday 8th October.

The handout is available on-line here.

For the MIPS assembly section of the course it is strongly recommended that you get a copy of SPIM, the MIPS simulator. Versions are available for linux, mac OS X, or windows from The same page has a list of additional resources towards the end, and you should be able to find a number of other sites with tutorial info or example programs. It is of course best to learn by doing, so get programming!

This course is new this year, but much of the material was formerly taught as part of the CST 1A Operating Systems course, and the past exam questions for that course are available here, which you might find useful for exam practice and supervision work. There is also a set of additional questions which were prepared by Dr Tim Harris in 2002. They are available here.

Recommended books

There are a large number of books covering the various topics in this course; a selection are listed below.

  • Patterson, D. & Hennessy, J. (1998). Computer Organisation and Design. Morgan Kaufmann (4th ed.).
  • Harris & Harris (2007). Digital Design and Computer Architecture. Morgan Kaufmann.
  • Tanenbaum, A.S. (1990). Structured Computer Organisation. Prentice-Hall (5th ed).


Feedback is welcome at any time: either through the on-line feedback system, by e-mail to me or through any of the other channels available.