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CODE 72303
SEMESTER 1° Semester
MODULES Questo insegnamento è un modulo di:


The progress of computer technologies from 1960 to today has been oustanding. In 1960, a computer was as big as an entire room. Today, a computer is as small as a tablet or a smartphone. In this course, students will study the principles  of computer architecture, which played a crucial role in such evolution of computer system.




The course is a study of the evolution of computer architecture and the factors influencing the design of hardware and software elements of computer systems. The course covers the fundamentals of classical and modern processor design: performance and cost issues, instruction sets, pipelining, memory organization.


The design and development of a computer require one to address specific targets in terms of computational performance, size, cost, and power consumption. Accordingly, both a tablet and a data centre belong to the class of computers; on the other hand, they are definitely different when looking at the four attributes listed above. This module focuses on the design methodologies that allow one to target specific constraints when developing a computer. At the same time, students will be involved in practical classes, where professional tools for the design of digital electronic systems will be utilized. Overall, students will be able to improve their skills in computer architecture and computer systems.

At the end of the semester, students will be able to

- understand, describe, and analyze the architecture of a computer system;

- use hardware description languages (VHDL) to design and simulate a digital electronic system.


This teaching includes a combination of lectures and laboratory assignments. The contents are presented and discussed with traditional teaching during the lessons, which students are expected to attend. Besides, lab assignments will allow students to actively participate in designing and simulating digital architectures by adopting professional tools.


Topics will include: introduction to computer architecture design; analysis of the major design issues: computational performance, power consumption, cost, size; computer arithmetic; instruction set design; processor: datapath and control unit; pipeline and parallelism; memory organization.

The lectures deal with topics such as the progress of electronics and microprocessors in the support of Society and Industry. Thus, this teaching contributes to the achievement of the following Targets of the UN SDGs 2030:

8.2 (Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors)

9.5 (Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending)


Lecture notes

David Patterson, John Hennessy, "Computer Organization and Design", Morgan Kaufmann

David Harris, Sarah Harris, "Digital Design and Computer Architecture", Morgan Kaufmann



Class schedule

The timetable for this course is available here: Portale EasyAcademy



Written exam with multiple-choice tests and open questions. The maximum score that can be achieved in the written exam is 30/30. The score obtained in the written exam never expires; if a student retakes the written exam, the score from the previous attempt is automatically voided.

The final score will be calculated by also taking into account the outcomes of two lab assignments, which allow a student to gain up to 4 points. Such points will be added to the score achieved in the written exam. This rule does not apply to students that take the written exam three times or more.   

Students who have valid certification of physical or learning disabilities on file with the University are referred to the section “Further information”.





The assessment will be based on

1) Lab assignments. The goal is to evaluate the ability of properly exploiting the theoretical contents introduced in the lessons. In particular,

                the first assignment will assess the ongoing learning outcomes about computer architecture.

                the second assignment deals will assess the learning outcomes about design and simulation of digital systems. 

2) Written exam. The goal is to evaluate the levels of comprehension of the theoretical contents introduced in the lessons with a specific focus on the learning outcomes about computer architecture. The exam includes both multiple-choice tests and open questions. The assessment of competences is certified in a progressive fashion: 

- a group of baseline questions aims to verify the minimal contents required to pass the exam (18-22)

- a group of reference tests aims to validate the expected average of competence and notions (23-28)

- a group of challenging questions highlights the acquisition of original and high-level skills (29-30 e Lode)


Students who have valid certification of physical or learning disabilities on file with the University and who wish to discuss possible accommodations or other circumstances regarding lectures, coursework and exams, should speak both with the instructor and with Professor Federico Scarpa ( ), the School's disability liaison.

Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals

Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals
Decent work and economic growth
Decent work and economic growth
Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Industry, innovation and infrastructure