Computer Systems Architecture

Prentice Hall
Rob Williams  
Total pages
August 2006
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Computer Systems Architecture  presents the subject in a progressive, incremental manner, bottom-upwards. Starting with digital logic and computer hardware, moving through the layers of software and leading on to an introduction to the field of networking and operating systems. It adopts a practical, hand-on approach, drawing upon areas of student interest and experience (the Internet, Pentium processors, GUIs, mobile communications) to stimulate the reader's enthusiasm for the subject. Throughout, system performance is analysed as jointly dependent on hardware and software features. Practical exercises demonstrate this fundamental aspect of hardware/software interaction.

Computer Systems Architectureis meant as an introduction in the first year to the subject for university students in Computer Science and related courses. It is planned as a two-semester introductory course in networked computer systems passing through digital logic, peripheral hardware, layers of software, networking, and operating systems.


  •     Uses a real processor (Pentium) – this allows most of the practical work to be carried out at home on the student's own equipment. 
  •       Academically friendly in structure and contents. Built around the author’s own weekly need for material to use in lab sessions as well as lectures. Well tested coursework assignments, examination/test papers, worksheets and OHPs available through the web site.
  •       Introduces very relevant ideas and concepts regarding data transmission and communication, in preparation for subsequent modules on networking and web communications – popular with students, who enthusiastically greet any mention of mobile telephony or broadband networking!  
  •    Good selection of chapter-end exercises, with answer commentaries at the end of the book.
  •       Many modern, commercial examples to stimulate the reader and show the subject in action.
  • CD with additional resources included as part of the package.

New to this Edition

  •     A new chapter on distributed computing: parallel processors, clusters, grid computing, super-computers, HP Super-dome, Google's search array.
  •    A new appendix with details of dual-booting a PC for Windows and Linux using a boot manager such as LILO or Grub.
  • Updated details on the Intel & AMD Pentium range of CPUs.
  • New material on setting up a broadband home network, with modem and firewall router.

Table of Contents


Preface to the first edition

Recommended lab sessions

Part 1 Basic functions and facilities of a computer

1 Introduction: the hardware-software interface

2 The von Neumann inheritance

3 Functional units and the fetch-execute cycle

4 Building computers from logic: the control unit

5 Building computers from logic: the ALU

6 Building computers from logic: the memory

7 The Intel Pentium CPU

8 Subroutines

9 Simple input and output

10 Serial connections

11 Parallel connections

12 The memory hierarchy

Part 2 Networking and increased complexity

13 The programmer's viewpoint

14 Local area networks

15 Wide area networks

16 Other networks

17 Introduction to operating systems

18 Windows XP

19 Filing systems

20 Visual output

21 RISC processors: ARM and SPARC

22 VLIW processors: the EPIC Itanium

23 Parallel processing

Appendix: MS Visual Studo 8, Express Edition


Answers to end-of-chapter questions




Back Cover

Cover copy


Computer Systems Architecture

A Networking Approach


Second edition


Rob Williams


The new edition of Computer Systems Architecture has been brought up to date with extended descriptions of ARM and Itanium processors and an extended

introduction to the field of data communications.  Its established approach emphasizes that the vast majority of modern computers are not stand-alone devices, but cooperate with others in a networked environment.  Numerous practical exercises underline the importance of thoroughly understanding the hardware/software interaction to achieve optimum performance.


Highlights of the Second Edition include:


Ø      A new chapter on Distributed Computing, introducing parallel, cluster and grid configurations including IBM’s Cell processor;

Ø      A separate chapter on Intel’s 64-bit Itanium processor, a key architecture for the post-RISC era;

Ø      The ARM CPU is used as the primary example of microcontroller design;

Ø      Updated and expanded coverage of USB communications and ADSL broadband equipment;

Ø      New coverage of MPEG algorithms for audio and video compression in portable devices.


 Computer Systems Architecture is an ideal introductory text for students of Computer Science or Engineering, laying the foundations for more detailed courses on Networking.


Dr Rob Williams is Head of the Computer Systems Technology School at the University of the West of England in Bristol, specializing in Real-Time systems.  He has also worked as a Microprocessor Systems Engineer for GWE/GKN, Marconi Avionics and Nexos Office Systems.


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