Computer Systems - COMP5570

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 5 15 (7.5) David Barnes checkmark-circle


This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental components (hardware and software) of a typical computer system, and how they collaborate to execute software programs. The module provides a compressive overview from the lowest level of abstractions in hardware to the highest level of abstractions of modern programming languages. For example, they will see logic circuits, machine language, programming language implementations, high-level languages, and applications. This material provides a general understanding of computers, and it will also prepare students to develop software considering the system perspective, e.g. cost of abstraction and performance implications.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 26 hrs
Total private study hours: 124 hrs
Total module study hours: 150 hrs

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework (50%)
Exam (50%)

Reassessment methods
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Indicative reading

Noam Nisan, Shimon Schocken (2005) The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles. MIT Press, 344 pp.
Any additional textbooks for background reading will be advised by individual lecturers.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8. The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1) Describe the purpose of, and the interaction between, the hardware and software components of a typical computer system.
2) Appreciate the principles of abstraction and layering in building today's complex systems and be able to apply them.
3) Identify the interfaces of abstraction layers and be able to select an appropriate layer on which to build useful systems.
4) Describe comprehensively how programs are executed by each of the abstractions and critically assess the consequences of the abstractions on how we build systems today.

9. The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1) Communicate their understanding of technical problems and their solutions.
2) Make effective use of IT facilities.
3) Manage their time and resources effectively.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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