George Mason University
Computer Science Department

Course Number: CS465

Course Title: Computer System Architecture

Room:  Robinson B113

Instructor: Arun Sood

Office: Engineering 5327

Office Phone: 703-993-1524

Office Hours: Wednesday 3:30 to 4:15 PM.

TA: Azad Naik

TA Office Hours: TBD

E-mail: asood (at) gmu (dot) edu.

E-messages must include CS465 as the first 5 characters of the Subject line.  Generally e-mail is good for clarifying or confirming information.   I prefer short and precise messages, and you can expect similar responses. If you find that the reply is too terse, and requires clarification - do not hesitate to see the instructor. If you require more details, a face to face meeting is strongly recommended. E-mail is not a substitute for face to face meetings.

Course Text: Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware / Software Interface by Patterson and Hennessy, Revised Fourth Edition, 2011.

Pre-requisites: C or better Computer Systems Programming (CS 367)) / Digital Electronics (ECE 301)) OR ECE 303. Students not satisfying the prerequisites will be dropped from the class.

Course Content:

This course will follow the text, although supplementary material will be required to cover some of the topics. Some of the earlier chapters and appendices contain review material. We will cover selected parts of other chapters. The focus is on issues and methods involved in designing computer architecture. The impact of technological and market issues, and the interaction with compiler and operating system design will be explored. Topics include:

Computer system specification
Performance issues
Instruction set selection
ALU design
Architecture design
Datapath selection
Control systems
Single and multiple clocks
Memory hierarchy
I/O architectures.

Course Outcomes:
Students should be able to:

Lecture Strategy

Some of the material in the text Chapters has already been covered in the pre-requisite courses. Consequently this material will not be repeated in the class.

Your active participation in the class discussions is encouraged. The instructor is interested in encouraging participation of ALL the students, and any suggestions that will facilitate this effort are solicited.

At the beginning of each class a few minutes will be used to review market and technology trends that have a computer architecture implication. To show the connection between the lectures and existing architectures, students will be required to explore the internet and obtain information about commercial systems.


All homework must be prepared using a word processor.

Late Policy

Late homework will be accepted with a penalty of 20% per day within 2 days after deadlines and will not be accepted two days after due date, unless under prearranged conditions.


The grade will be computed on the following basis:

Exam I: 5%; Exam II: 20%; Exam III: 20%; Final: 25%; Quizzes and Homework: 25%, and Class Participation: 5%.

Class Participation is recorded on a daily basis.

Tentative grade cut-offs: A >90%, A- 87-90, B+ 83 – 86, B > 80%, B-  75-79, C+ 70 – 74, C>65%, D >50%.

Exam Content

The exams in general will include questions relating to concepts, definitions, analysis and design. You are strongly urged to solve the problems at the end of each chapter. You should not be surprised to find some questions similar to these problems in the various exams.

Exams Schedule (Tentative):

Exam I: January 29; Exam II: February 26; Exam III: April 23; Final: Wed. May 7, 430 to 715 pm.

Spring  break: Mon Mar 10 to Sun Mar 16

Last Lecture Class:  April 30.

School Calendar


Instructor does not take attendance.  Attendance is not compulsory but strongly recommended.


Seat Assignment

First class you may choose any seat you like.  On this basis instructor will build a student seating map – helps the instructor to call on students by name.  You are not allowed to change your seat after the first class.


Use of laptops and other electronic devices in the class

Instructor makes an effort to get students involved.  Such devices can be a distraction to the instructor and other students.  On the other hand some students need to use these devices for functionality reasons.  Please explain your need to the instructor and get instructor permission on the first day of class to use such devices.  These students should occupy the front row in the class.

Make - up exams are strongly discouraged.

Award of IN grade:

The IN grade policy as indicated in the catalog will be strictly adhered to. You must provide the necessary back-up documentation (e.g. medical certificate) for your application to be considered favorably. In all circumstances the written request, with all the back up documentation, must be received before the final exam week.

Mason is an Honor Code university; please see the University Catalog for a full description of the code and the honor committee process. The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. What does academic integrity mean in this course? Essentially this: when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in an aspect of the performance of that task, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions. When in doubt (of any kind) please ask for guidance and clarification.

Honor Code
Honor Code procedures will be strictly adhered. Students are required to be familiar with the honor code. You must not utilize unauthorized material or consultation in responding to your tests. Violations of the honor code will be reported. Unless otherwise stated, homework assignments must be based on the student’s own effort.

Please be sure that you are aware of all provisions of the GMU Honor Code and Computer Science Department Honor Code


Students must use their MasonLIVE email account to receive important University information, including messages related to this class. See for more information.

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.


WRITING CENTER: A114 Robinson Hall; (703) 993-1200;



The University Catalog,, is the central resource for university policies affecting student, faculty, and staff conduct in university academic affairs. Other policies are available at All members of the university community are responsible for knowing and following established policies.