CS 3330: Undergraduate Computer Architecture

Lecture Time/Location: Tu/Th 11am-12:15pm @ Olsson 120
Lab-1 Time/Location: We 3:30pm-4:45pm @ Olsson 018
Lab-2 Time/Location: We 5:00pm-6:15pm @ Olsson 005
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:


    Ashish Venkat (email: venkat@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Tu/Th 10am-11am or by appointment at Rice 312
Teaching Assistants:
    Xida Ren (email: xr5ry@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: We/Fr 11:15am-12:15pm (We at Olsson 001 and Fr on Zoom)
    Logan Moody (email: lgm4xn@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Mo 2pm-3pm and Th 12:30pm-1:30pm at Rice 442
    Conner Ward (email: cjw5db@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Tu 2pm-3pm at Rice 442
    Cheryl He (email: rpr2pj@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Mo 10:30am-11:30am at Rice 442
    Brian Tufts (email: bt3qzd@virginia.edu)
    Office Hours: Tu 12:30pm-1:30pm at Rice 442


The grading breakdown for this course is:

  • 5%: Peer Review and Professionalism
  • 20%: 5 homework assignments
  • 15%: Project-1 (Feb 9 to Apr 12, with a checkpoint due on Mar 15)
  • 10%: Project-2 (Apr 19 to May 3)
  • 10%: Midterm exam-1 on Feb 24 (will include material from Jan 25 to Feb 10)
  • 15%: Midterm exam-2 on Apr 7 (will include material from Feb 15 to Mar 24)
  • 25%: Final exam on May 13 from 9am-12pm (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 exam. You will be periodically notified of your standings.


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.
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.


Week Date Topic Assignment
Week 1 Jan 20 Introduction, Motivation, and Course Logistics
Background Preparation: Appendix A
Week 2 Jan 25 Instruction Set Architecture
Reading: Chapters 1.3, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5
HW1 out
Jan 26 Discussion: ISA
Jan 27 Memory Organization and Control Flow
Reading: Chapters 2.6, 2.7, 2.8
Week 3 Feb 1 Quantitative Analysis in Computer Architecture
Reading: Chapters 1.6 and 1.10
Feb 2 Discussion: Quantitative Analysis and Digital Logic
Feb 3 Design of the MIPS Arithmetic and Logic Unit
Reading: Appendix B.2, B.3, and B.5
Week 4 Feb 8 Design of the Control Unit and Register File
Reading: Appendix B.7, B.8, and Chapter 4.3
HW1 due, HW2 out
Feb 9 Discussion: Introduction to Project-1
Project-1 out
Feb 10 The MIPS Single Cycle Processor Architecture
Reading: Chapters 4.3 and 4.4
Week 5 Feb 15 Pipelined Datapath and Control
Reading: Chapters 4.5 and 4.6
Feb 16 Discussion: Single-Cycle Processor
Feb 17 Pipelining: Data Hazards
Reading: Chapter 4.7
Week 6 Feb 22 Midterm Exam-1 Review HW2 due
Feb 23 Discussion: Midterm Exam-1 Review
Feb 24 Midterm Exam-1 -
Week 7 Mar 1 Pipelining: Forwarding
Reading: Chapter 4.7
HW3 out
Mar 2 Discussion: Pipelining
Mar 3 Pipelining: Control Hazards
Reading: Chapter 4.8
Spring Break
Week 8 Mar 15 Branch Prediction
Reading: Chapters 4.8 and 4.10
Project-1 Checkpoint due
Mar 16 Discussion: Control Hazards and Branch Prediction
Mar 17 Superscalar Execution and Static Scheduling
Reading: Chapter 4.10
HW3 due, HW4 out
Week 9 Mar 22 Data-Level Parallelism
Reading: Chapters 6.2 and 6.3
Mar 23 Discussion: Branch Prediction and Superscalars
Mar 24 Out-Of-Order Execution
Reading: Chapter 4.11
Week 10 Mar 29 Introduction to Memory Hierarchy: Cache Fundamentals
Reading: Appendix B.9 and Chapter 5.3
Mar 30 Discussion: OOO Superscalars and Caches
Mar 31 Cache Organization and Design
Reading: Chapter 5.4
HW4 due
Week 11 Apr 5 Midterm Exam-2 Review -
Apr 6 Discussion: Midterm Exam-2 Review
Apr 7 Midterm Exam-2 -
Week 12 Apr 12 Cache Management and Policies
Reading: Chapter 5.8
Project-1 due, HW5 out
Apr 13 Discussion: Cache Organization and Management
Apr 14 Cache Optimizations and Side-Channel Attacks
Chapters 8.1-8.5 from Principles of Secure Processor Architecture Design
Week 13 Apr 19 Cache Side-Channel Attacks
Chapters 8.1-8.5 from Principles of Secure Processor Architecture Design
Project-2 out
Apr 20 Discussion: Project-1 Interviews
Apr 21 Virtual Memory: Page Tables and TLBs
Reading: Chapter 5.7
Week 14 Apr 26 Virtual Memory: Page Fault Handling and Virtual Caches
Reading: Chapter 5.7
Apr 27 Discussion: Virtual Memory
Apr 28 In-Class Hacking Workshop
HW5 due
Week 15 May 3 Final Review
Project-2 due

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.