Computer Systems Architecture


All computer systems share the same underlying computer architecture principles. This unit examines these principles and explores the fundamentals of how computer systems work. Learners will focus on the technical detail including how the components function at an electronic level.

Learners will explore how various types of data can be represented and then stored within computer systems. This is followed by a study of the low-level system components. It includes the processor, buses and memory incorporating an analysis of how these components interact to manipulate data using the fetch-execute cycle. Low-level program instructions make up the fetch-execute cycle and simple assembly code instructions are investigated along with their interaction with the various registers that make up the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Learners will have the opportunity to develop simple programs in a low-level language.

1.1 Aim

To enable learners to understand the underlying architecture and components behind the functioning of computer systems.

1.2 Key Objectives

  1. Understand how data can be represented within computer systems
  2. Understand the functions of computer system components
  3. Understand the principles of processor operations.
  4. 1 Understand how data can be represented within computer systems

Numeric data: conversions between different representations of data; representing integer numbers in different number bases; converting between number bases using integer numbers eg denary to binary, denary to hexadecimal, binary to hexadecimal; performing arithmetic operations in different number bases; representing fixed-point numbers in different number bases; representing floating-point numbers in binary.

Boolean logic: logic gates; truth tables; use of logic gates in integrated circuits; logical operations eg AND, OR, NOT, NAND, NOR, XOR

Coding of data: sign and magnitude; two’s compliment; floating point; binary coded decimal; coding of character data eg ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

Types of data: representing bit patterns for different types of data eg graphics, video, audio and other data; graphics eg bitmap (resolution, colour depth, file calculations), vector (objects, properties); sound (compression, sampling resolution, sampling rate, streaming audio, quality); video (compression, encoding, streaming, quality); analogue data; digital data; analogue signals; digital signals; data conversion eg analogue to digital; file formats eg mp3, mp4, wav, avi.

2 Understand the functions of computer system components

Key components: Central Processing Unit (CPU); memory; interfaces; clock; buses, diagrammatic representation; Von Neuman architectures

Central Processing Unit: control unit; ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit); general purpose registers; special purpose registers eg instruction pointer, accumulator; core eg single, multiple; features eg pipelining, multiprocessing, parallel processing; polling; interrupts

Memory: I/O maps; Direct Memory Access (DMA); ROM (Read Only Memory); cache; RAM (Random Access Memory) eg static, dynamic, flash

Buses: system bus; address bus; control bus; physical connections to components eg Central Processing Unit, memory, input/output (I/O) devices, system buses

Peripherals: types eg hard disc, printer, scanner, network card

3 Understand the principles of processor operations

CPU instruction sets: Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC); Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC); clock rate; performance levels

Addressing: modes eg immediate; relative; address bus; addressing in the fetch-execute

Machine operations: how they are organised and represented; role of the instruction decoder; low-level programs; assembly code instructions eg fetch, load, add;
decision making and branching; using registers, transferring data between registers, fetch-execute cycle; program storage; data storage; addressing

3.0 Learning Outcomes and assessment criteria

LO1 Understand how data can be represented within computer systems

P1 explain using examples how numeric and alphanumeric data can be coded within a computer system

P2 explain using examples how different types of data can be converted and stored in computer systems

P3 convert numeric data between different number systems including floating point
P4 carry out Boolean logic operations

LO2 Understand the functions of computer system components

P5 illustrate the key computer system components and how they interact

P6 explain the different types of memory that can be attached to a processor

P7 explain how polling and interrupts are used to allow communication between processor and peripherals

LO3 Understand the principles of processor operations

P8 compare Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) chips and Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) chips

P9 illustrate the use of the different processor registers in the fetch execute cycle.

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System Analysis and Design

System Analysis and Design
Name of Student 
Unit TitleSystem Analysis and Design

[Unit code: K/601/1281; QCF Level 4; Credit value: 15]

Assignment No. & TitleAssignment 2

I.            Understand the different system life cycle models

II.            Recognize the significance of Feasibility Study

III.            Performing systems investigation

Name of Assessor 
Hand Out Date 
Hand in Date 
About the Book


When a new or upgraded system is introduced into an organisation, it is usually intended to support the work already carried out by the organisation. Although the new system may differ substantially from the existing system, the information being handled, and the main functions of the system, will remain relatively unchanged.An analysis of the existing system, therefore, provides a firm, the basis for the design of the new system.Systems development starts with investigation and analysis of existing systems.Being a System Analyst, you have been contacted by the management of the State Library for systems investigation, as keeping an overview of a library’s content manually, is too time-consuming. Using a software solution helps getting a quick and clear summary of the library’s status and it offers an efficient way to manage and maintain a library.The Management expects that the new Library Management System will keep track of:
  • Books available in the library
  • Books borrowed and borrower details
  • Returned books details
  • Books added/removed details
  • Books stock (not-available/low-quantity) details
Your role is to obtain the user and system requirements and perform a systems investigation using appropriate system analysis tools and techniques for the new Library Management System which will cater to the above mentioned services for the State Library.Task 1:Undertake a systems investigation (for functional and non-functional requirements and constraints) to meet the Library Management System’s needs.                        (Outcome 3.1)Task 2: Use appropriate systems analysis tools and techniques (like interviews) to carry out a systemsinvestigation.                                                                                                        (Outcome 3.2)Task 3:Create documentation (including the Purpose, Background, Scope, Definitions and References, Conclusion) to support a systems investigation.                                             (Outcome 3.3)Task 4:Evaluate how the user and systems requirements have been addressed.       (Outcome 3.4)
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