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ECPE 170 - Computer Systems and Networks - Spring 2012



Jeff Shafer

Office: Anderson Hall 205

Phone: (209) 946-2302

Email: jshafer at pacific dot edu

Office Hours: Mon and Wed, 1:30-3:30pm. Other days by appointment


Course Basics


Course Description

This course is a comprehensive and holistic examination of the modern computing environment. Students will learn to understand the function and design of the various hardware and software components necessary to process digital information and execute applications.

Computing systems are presented as layers of abstract virtual machines, starting with low­-level hardware, progressing through system software and continuing to network hardware and protocols. Emphasis is on the functionality provided by the various components and how the typical design considerations of these components impact the efficiency and effectiveness of computer applications. Equal emphasis is placed on the communication paths and data translations necessary to allow the layers of components to operate as a unified system.

This approach gives students a comprehensive overview of computing systems sufficient to understand how systems components are engaged in the execution of software applications, such that they can appropriately identify and understand the design trade­offs necessary to develop efficient software and hardware.


Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  • Use binary mathematics, Boolean algebra and the digital representation of numbers.
  • Recognize the fundamental digital circuits that implement basic digital functions.
  • Describe the basic components of a central processing unit.
  • Describe the instructions execution cycle of a CPU.
  • Describe the components of the memory hierarchy, how these various components are utilized and how data is moved between them.
  • Understand how data flows among primary computer components, and how these data flows impact the efficiency of software applications.
  • Interpret the basic structure of common machine and assembly level instructions.
  • Explain what assemblers, linkers and compilers do, and how they work together to generate and execute libraries and programs.
  • Describe how peripheral devices communicate with the processor.
  • Explain the primary services provided by an operating system.
  • Explain the protocols and models that underlie computer networks.
  • Describe the physical components and communication paths of modern computer networks.


Assessment of these topics will be conducted through homework, quizzes, and exams.

Please note that copies of student work may be retained by the instructor to assess how the learning objectives of the course are met.


Attendance Policy

Regular class attendance is strongly encouraged.  Students who miss class meetings are responsible for keeping up with the class.  The course website and companion Sakai site will be used to assist in instruction. You are responsible for keeping up with homework assignments, lecture notes, announcements, and other materials that may be posted on the course website or sent via email (at your email address posted in Sakai).



Grades for the course are assigned on the scale below:


> 93


< 90-­87

< 87-­83

< 83-­80

< 80-­77

< 77-­73

< 73-­70

< 70-­67

< 67-­60

< 60













Your course grade is based on the following items:

Homework: 20% - ­ Homework problems will be assigned frequently (almost every class period). The purpose of homework is for you to exercise your skills and discover how well (or poorly) you understand the course subject matter before you take the quizzes and exams. Solutions to homework assignments will be discussed in class and/or given on the web. Homework is due at the start of class, and no make­-up work will be given for missed or late homework assignments. Your grade will be determined by the correctness of your homework and the amount of honest effort you put forth.

Quizzes: 20% ­- There will be six quizzes given during the semester. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped. These quizzes test portions of your knowledge on materials you should have mastered in this class and are intended to help you prepare for exams. Make­-up quizzes will be given only for excused absences. The quizzes will consist of material covered in class, homework, and outside reading (i.e., textbook).

Exams: 60% ­- There will be four exams. Three will occur during the normal 15­-week session and one (the final exam) will occur during the final exam period. The lowest exam grade will be dropped, including the final. Each exam will be 75-­90 minutes long and will cover material since the previous exam. Make­-up exams will be given only for excused absences. The exams will consist of material covered in class, homework, and outside reading (i.e., textbook).


Honor Code Policy

University-wide policy: The University Honor Code is an essential element in academic integrity. It is a violation of the Honor Code to give or receive information from another student during an examination; or to submit all or part of someone else's work as one's own. If a student violates the Honor Code, the faculty member may refer the matter to the Office of Student Life. If found guilty, the student may be penalized with failure of the assignment or failure of the course. The student may also be reprimanded or suspended from the University. A complete statement of the Honor Code may be found in the student handbook, the Tiger Lore.

ECPE 170-specific policy on collaboration:

Engineering is generally a cooperative endeavor and collaborative learning can be a valuable experience for all involved. However, proper assessment (i.e., grading) requires that work be done by individuals. To balance these two requirements, the following policy will apply:

  • Collaborative work on take-home assignments is encouraged. This includes working together on planning solution strategies and helping each other to debug programs.
  • Collaboration must stop short of someone else writing your assignment. You may not directly copy the work of another student. You also may not copy the work of another student, and then modify it so that it does not look the same as the original author's work. It is your responsibility to ensure that the work you submit is an honest representation of your own understanding of the material.

Marginal cases will be resolved by oral examination of the student(s) involved. If they each understand the material in the assignment, it will be considered honest collaboration. If they do not, then it will be considered academic dishonesty.

ECPE 170-specific policy on using code from other sources:

In many cases, it may be possible to identify reusable source code from textbooks, web sites or other resources that can help you with take-home assignments.  You are permitted to use such references provided that:

  • The amount of code reused does not exceed 25% of the total assignment length, and
  • You clearly identify any code that you did not write, state where it came from, and to what extent you modified it.


You are responsible for understanding the theory behind all algorithms or source code used, regardless of their source.


Students with Disabilities

Any student with a physical disability or with a learning disability needing accommodations should register with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities, in Bannister Hall. The office will assist with any needed accommodations. If you have questions or wish to discuss your disability, please feel free to see me directly.


Nondiscrimination Policy

The University of the Pacific does not discriminate in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions, scholarships, loans, athletics, or other University activities or programs on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, handicap, sexual orientation or preference, sex or age.