Department of Computer Science and Technology

Course pages 2019–20

Advanced Topics in Computer Architecture

Principal lecturers: Prof Simon Moore, Dr Robert Mullins, Dr Timothy Jones
Taken by: MPhil ACS, Part III
Code: R265
Hours: 16 (8 2-hour sessions)
Class limit: max. 15 students
Prerequisites: An undergraduate course in computer architecture. A good basic understanding of computer architecture will also suffice, e.g. provided by the Patterson and Hennessy book “The Hardware/Software Interface” and/or the early chapters of their book “Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach”.


This course aims to provide students with an introduction to a range of advanced topics in computer architecture. It will explore the current and future challenges facing the architects of modern computers. These will also be used to illustrate the many different influences and trade-offs involved in computer architecture.


On completion of this module students should:

  • understand the challenges of designing and verifying modern microprocessors
  • be familiar with recent research themes and emerging challenges
  • appreciate the complex trade-offs at the heart of computer architecture


Each seminar will focus on a different topic:

  • Trends in computer architecture
  • State-of-the-art microprocessor design
  • Memory system design
  • Hardware reliability
  • Specification, verification and test
  • Hardware security (2)
  • HW accelerators and accelerators for machine learning

Each two hour seminar will include three student presentations (15mins) questions (5mins) and a broader discussion of the topics (around 30mins). The last part of the seminar will include a short scene setting lecture (around 20mins) to introduce the following week's topic.


Students will be expected to read at least three papers per week and submit a written summary and review in advance of each seminar (except when presenting).

Students will be expected to give a number of 15 minute presentations.

Essays and presentations will be marked out of 10. After dropping the lowest mark, the remaining marks will be scaled to give a final score out of 100.

Weekly essays will be up to 1,500 words summarising the complete set of assigned papers, identifying common themes, discussing the broader context, and highlighting interesting issues, limitations or outstanding challenges.

Students will give at least one presentation during the course. They will not be required to submit an essay during the weeks they are presenting.

Each presentation will focus on a single paper from the reading list. Marks will be awarded for clarity and the communication of the paper's key ideas, an analysis of the work's strengths and weaknesses and the work’s relationship to related work and broader trends and constraints.

Recommended prerequisite reading

Patterson, D. A., Hennessy, J. L. (2017). Computer organization and design: The Hardware/software interface RISC-V edition Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 978-0-12-812275-4.

Hennessy, J. & Patterson, D. (2012). Computer architecture: a quantitative approach. Elsevier (5th ed.) ISBN 9780123838728. (the 3rd and 4th editions are also relevant)