CS 3330: Undergraduate Computer Architecture

Lecture Time/Location: Mo/We 2pm-3:15pm
Lab-1 Time/Location: We 5pm-6:15pm
Lab-2 Time/Location: We 6:30pm-7:45pm
The goal of this course is to introduce students to the hardware/software interface and the fundamental building blocks that make up a modern computer. By taking this course, students will:
  • become conversant with fundamental computer architecture concepts,
  • be able to read and evaluate specs of modern architectures,
  • understand the implications of computer architecture on performance and security, and
  • gain experience designing a working processor from scratch.
Required Textbook:
    Patterson and Hennessy, "Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface", Fifth Edition
Other textbooks and online resources:


We will use Piazza as our class forum, and our primary mode of communication outside of class. All general inquiries must be made on Piazza. For group-specific questions or private questions, you can either email me or post a private question on Piazza.

Zoom meeting links for lecture, office hours, and discussions are posted here.

Zoom recordings for lectures and discussions are posted here.

    Ashish Venkat (email: venkat@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Mo/We 1pm-2pm or by appointment.
Teaching Assistants:
    Rasool Sharifi (email: as3mx@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Tu 10am-11am
    Xida Ren (email: xr5ry@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Fr 6:15pm-7:15pm
    Layne Berry (email: vlb9ae@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Fr 10am-11am
    Joey Rudek (email: jer5ae@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Fr 3pm-4pm
    Alif Ahmed (email: aa8qz@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Mo 10am-11am
    Trey West (email: rew7y@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Th 3pm-4pm


The grading breakdown for this course is:

  • 5%: Peer Review and Professionalism
  • 20%: 5 homework assignments
  • 15%: Lab Project-1 (Feb 24 to Apr 19)
  • 10%: Lab Project-2 (Apr 28 to May 12)
  • 10%: Midterm exam-1 on Mar 8 (will include material from Feb 3 to Feb 24)
  • 15%: Midterm exam-2 on Apr 14 (will include material from Mar 10 to Apr 5)
  • 25%: Final exam on May 10 from 2pm-5pm (inclusive of all material)
We will NOT use an absolute grading scale for this course. Your final letter grades will be assigned based on your overall performance, relative to the class average. In addition, you will receive an automatic level-up in your letter grade (e.g., A- to A) if you ace the final. Scores and standings will be periodically updated on Gradesource.


There will be 5 homework assignments (due roughly every two weeks). Each homework assignment will involve 5-6 exercise problems from the textbook. Links to assignments:

There will also be 2 lab projects that will involve building a processor and a cache side-channel exploit from scratch. More details to follow soon.
Guidelines and Policies:
  • You will work in groups of three students for all assignments (including the lab projects) and all students will receive the same grade. In addition, each individual member will be given a chance to evaluate other members of the group for every assignment/project.
  • Homework assignments are to be turned in electronically on Gradescope, at the beginning of the lecture, unless otherwise noted.
  • You are strongly encouraged to typeset your homework solutions, but not strictly required.
  • Homework assignments are primarily intended for practice, rather than assessment. No single problem will have a significant impact on your final grade.
  • Solutions to homework assignments will be typically released 2 days after the assignment is due.
  • Late assignments are not encouraged. Late assignments turned in before solutions are posted will be assessed a flat 10% (of the maximum score) late penalty. If you turn in the assignment after the solutions have been posted, it will not be accepted.


Date Topic Assignment Lab/Discussion
Feb 1 Introduction, Motivation, and Course Logistics
Background Preparation: Appendix A
Reading: Chapter 1.3
- -
Feb 3 Instruction Set Architecture
Reading: Chapters 2.2, 2.3, 2.5
HW1 out Discussion: ISA
Feb 8 Memory Organization and Control Flow
Reading: Chapters 2.6, 2.7, 2.8
- -
Feb 10 Quantitative Analysis in Computer Architecture
Reading: Chapters 1.6 and 1.10
- Discussion: Quantitative Analysis +
Digital Logic
Feb 15 Design of the MIPS Arithmetic and Logic Unit
Reading: Appendix B.2, B.3, and B.5
HW1 due, HW2 out -
Feb 17 Break - -
Feb 22 Design of the Control Unit and Register File
Reading: Appendix B.7, B.8, and Chapter 4.3
- -
Feb 24 The MIPS Single Cycle Processor Architecture
Reading: Chapters 4.3 and 4.4
Project-1 out Discussion: Single Cycle Processor
Lab: Introduction to Project-1
Mar 1 Single Cycle Processor Review
Reading: Chapter 4.4
HW2 due -
Mar 3 Midterm Exam-1 Review - Discussion: TA Midterm Review
Mar 8 Midterm Exam-1 - -
Mar 10 Pipelined Datapath and Control
Reading: Chapters 4.5 and 4.6
HW3 out Discussion: Pipelining
Mar 15 Pipelining: Data Hazards
Reading: Chapter 4.7
- -
Mar 17 Pipelining: Forwarding
Reading: Chapter 4.7
- Discussion: Pipeline Diagrams
Mar 22 Pipelining: Control Hazards
Reading: Chapter 4.8
- -
Mar 24 Branch Prediction
Reading: Chapters 4.8 and 4.10
HW3 due, HW4 out Discussion: Branch Prediction
Mar 29 Break - -
Mar 31 Superscalar Execution
Reading: Chapter 4.10
- Discussion: Midterm-2 TA Review-1
Apr 5 Static and Dynamic Scheduling
Reading: Chapters 4.10 and 4.11
- -
Apr 7 Evolution of the Modern Microprocessor
Reading: Chapter 4.11
HW4 due Discussion: Midterm-2 TA Review-2
Apr 12 Midterm Exam-2 Review - -
Apr 14 Midterm Exam-2 - Discussion: Midterm Solutions
Apr 19 Introduction to Memory Hierarchy: Cache Fundamentals
Reading: Appendix B.9 and Chapter 5.3
Project-1 due -
Apr 21 Cache Organization and Design
Reading: Chapter 5.4
HW5 out Discussion: Cache Organization
Apr 26 Cache Management and Policies
Reading: Chapter 5.8
- -
Apr 28 Cache Side Channel Attacks-1
Chapters 8.1-8.5 from Principles of Secure Processor Architecture Design
Project-2 out (due May 12) Discussion: Cache Side Channel Attacks
Lab: Introduction to Project-2
May 3 Cache Side Channel Attacks-2
Chapters 8.1-8.5 from Principles of Secure Processor Architecture Design
- -
May 5 Final Review
HW5 due Discussion: TA Final Review

Honor Code

I trust every student in this course to fully abide by the University's Honor Code and pledge to not commit academic fraud. You are allowed to discuss, collaborate, and brainstorm both within and outside your group. However, you're not allowed to plagiarize solutions/text from another student's assignment or from the internet. Cheating will be taken seriously and will be reported to the honor committee. All suspected honor violations will receive an failing grade for the course regardless of any action taken by the Honor Committee.

    Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the course Honor policy. If you believe you may have committed an Honor Offense, you may wish to file a Conscientious Retraction by calling the Honor Offices at (434) 924-7602. For your retraction to be considered valid, it must, among other things, be filed with the Honor Committee before you are aware that the act in question has come under suspicion by anyone. More information can be found here. Your Honor representatives can be found at this link

    Learning Accommodations

    Students with disabilities or learning needs
    It is my goal to create a learning experience that is as accessible as possible. If you anticipate any issues related to the format, materials, or requirements of this course, please meet with me outside of class so we can explore potential options. Students with disabilities may also wish to work with the Student Disability Access Center to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in this course, including official accommodations. Please visit their website for information on this process and to apply for services online. If you have already been approved for accommodations through SDAC, please send me your accommodation letter and meet with me so we can develop an implementation plan together.

    Discrimination and power-based violence
    The University of Virginia is dedicated to providing a safe and equitable learning environment for all students. To that end, it is vital that you know two values that I and the University hold as critically important:
    1. Power-based personal violence will not be tolerated.
    2. Everyone has a responsibility to do their part to maintain a safe community on Grounds.
    If you or someone you know has been affected by power-based personal violence, more information can be found on the UVA Sexual Violence website that describes reporting options and resources available.
      As your professor and as a person, know that I care about you and your well-being and stand ready to provide support and resources as I can. As a faculty member, I am a responsible employee, which means that I am required by University policy and federal law to report what you tell me to the University's Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator's job is to ensure that the reporting student receives the resources and support that they need, while also reviewing the information presented to determine whether further action is necessary to ensure survivor safety and the safety of the University community. If you wish to report something that you have seen, you can do so at the Just Report It portal. The worst possible situation would be for you or your friend to remain silent when there are so many here willing and able to help.

      Religious accommodations
      It is the University's long-standing policy and practice to reasonably accommodate students so that they do not experience an adverse academic consequence when sincerely held religious beliefs or observances conflict with academic requirements. Students who wish to request academic accommodation for a religious observance should submit their request in writing directly to me as far in advance as possible. Students who have questions or concerns about academic accommodations for religious observance or religious beliefs may contact the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) at UVAEOCR@virginia.edu or (434) 924-3200.