COMPSCI 210 : Computer Organisation


2022 Semester One (1223) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The low level representation of data and algorithms in the computer. An introduction to computer organisation. The instruction execution model. Assembly and disassembly of instructions. Assembly language programming. How a high-level language is implemented at the machine level. The memory subsystem. Hardware support necessary to implement a secure multi-user operating system.

Course Overview

This course aims to give students an understanding of how computer systems work, at the lowest level seen by the programmer, namely the interface between the computer hardware and software. Topics include: data representation, the development of computer architectures and Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), assembly language, assembly language programming, an introduction to elementary C syntax, the mapping of C programming language to an ISA and the mechanism of memory organization.

This course is our core Stage 2 computer systems course and is a pre-requisite for all of the computer systems courses offered in Stage 3:

  • COMPSCI 313: Computer Architecture
  • COMPSCI 315: Data Communications Technologies
  • COMPSCI 316: Cyber Security
  • COMPSCI 340: Operating Systems
Given that it introduces C programming, this course is also a pre-requisite for COMPSCI 373: Computer Graphics and Image Processing where C and C++ are  used.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: COMPSCI 110, and 15 points from COMPSCI 105, 107, 130

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe elemental data structures, including characters, strings, signed and unsigned integers (various sizes), floating point numbers, and pointers (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Convert between various representations of a number (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Describe the range and limitations of representations of numbers (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Make the connection between simple combinational circuits and their corresponding truth tables (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Describe the execution of basic instructions at the instruction set architecture level (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  6. Write simple assembly language programs and simple programs in C (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  7. Describe the assembly process, and the information that is contained in assembly language instructions (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  8. Explain the concept of a pointer and distinguish between the value of a pointer and the entity pointed to (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  9. Explain the abstractions built into high-level languages and operating systems that simplify the programming of complex computer systems (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  10. Describe how to use cache memory to bridge the speed gap between CPU and memory (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Tutorials 6% Individual Coursework
Quizzes 12% Individual Coursework
Assignments 8% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 4% Individual Coursework
Test 20% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Final Exam


For more information and to find contact details for the Computer Science Tuākana coordinator, please see

Key Topics

  • An Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) 
  • Assembly language (LC3)
  • Input and Output including interrupts
  • Traps
  • Subroutines
  • Memory stack
  • Introduction to programming in C
  • Mapping C  an ISA (LC3)
  • Handling C’s dynamic memory allocation 
  • User/kernel mode
  • Hardware support for context switching and synchronization 
  • Exceptions
  • MMU and virtual memory
  • Caching

Special Requirements


Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures, a 1 hour tutorial, 3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 3 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including tutorials/labs to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will not necessarily be available as recordings.
Attendance on campus is required for the test and exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Introduction to Computing Systems: From Bits and Gates to C/C++ and Beyond, 3/e
Yale N. Patt, the University of Texas at Austin
Sanjay J. Patel, the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option: [Lectures, tutorials, labs, office hours]
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 03/11/2021 07:42 p.m.