Intro to Computer Systems

Chapter 1: Introduction

Course Structure

Welcome to Introduction to Computer Systems! This course is an in-depth look at computer systems from the perspective of individual components, the architecture that builds these components into a computing platform - and how the platform is extended upon with peripherals and software to form complete devices that solve real world problems that people face.

As well as the theoretical and technical aspects of computer systems and platform technologies, we will also take a look at other factors that are increasingly important to computing solutions, such as their power consumption, form factor and the implications of equipment failure, reliability and redundancy.

Before we dive into the main course material, though, we'll start off with some introductory material to help you understand exactly what it is we'll be doing, how it all fits together, and the skills that will assist you in achieving those goals not just in this course, but other online and distance education courses.

What Will Be Taught

This first week - the introduction - is all about preparing yourself for the other eleven teaching weeks of this unit, and to start off some important information skills that will be important for you as an IT professional. These skills are useful not just to complete this course, but for others in your program and, ultimately, a starting point to the skills you need to develop, in order to keep your information technology skills and knowledge current as the industry changes.

The course is split up into three topic areas, each of which have a number of weekly topics:

Introduction: this topic area is where we'll cover the most basic core knowledge you'll need to comfortably follow what comes ahead. We'll be looking at the fundamental pieces necessary for a computing device; such as the system processors that perform the processing, the memory that holds data, and the hardware architecture that lets these components talk to each other, and other devices and peripherals in the computer system. Digital logic and Boolean Algebra are introduced to show you the language used to describe digital components. Important terms and metrics related to data links and interfaces will also be reviewed. Signal communication basics are left to the Data Communications unit which you will study.

System Components: this topic area dives deeper into building knowledge at the component level by focusing on the system components, each in isolation: processor(s), memory, internal and external system expansion interfaces, and mass storage.

System Quality: an important facet of system integration is not so much raw peformance, but quality and fitness for purpose. In these weeks, we'll take into account real-world considerations such as power consumption, equipment failure modes and recovery techniques, and some best practices when integrating components into a system for a particular use case.

Building Solutions: the end of the course will concentrate on the final outcome - holistic analysis of built systems, hardware and software, to solve end user computational requirements.

Navigating Through the Course

The three topic areas are made up of 3-4 weeks worth of material:

Topic Area Week Topic
Inside the Machine
System Basics
Digital Logic and Boolean Algebra
Memory & Hamming/SECDED codes
Expansion and Peripherals
System Expansion
Peripheral Expansion
Mass Storage
Other Factors
Power Considerations
Equipment Failure
Systems and Software
System Integration

Each of the topics cover a broad point behind the topic area. Each of these topics are split into four or five subtopics. This makes each topic easier to digest, and easier to find specific sections.

Note in week 6 we will cover both System and Peripheral Exansion.

For a complete summary of every topic and sub-topic, view the Site Map. The site map is available from anywhere, by the link in the footer (bottom of the page).

To navigate between subtopics, there are navigation bars at the top and bottom of each page.

Assessment Structure

There are three types of assessment in this course:


This course has an overall 50% pass mark;

The pass grade in the unit reflects competence in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the material being studied.

For example:

Scenario 1:
Practical component = 12/50 = 24%
Exam component = 29/50 = 58%
Gives a final fail grade of NN and mark of 41 (29+12)

Scenario 2:
Practical component = 40/50 = 80%
Exam component = 12/50 = 24%
Gives a final PASS grade of PA - as the total (40+12) is over 50

Scenario 3:
Practical component = 12/50 = 24%
Exam component = 10/50 = 20%
Gives a final fail grade of NN and mark of 22 (12+10)

Submitting Assignments

Assignments for this course are to be submitted to the Blackboard system. The assignments area of Blackboard will have a series of submission boxes, that detail each assignment and the important particulars, such as the due date and time, and the end of the late submission period.

When an assessment is set for "the end of the week", this is to be interpreted as Sunday, 11.59pm (i.e. the very end of the week starting Monday).

Blackboard will only accept a single file as a submission - if your submission comprises multiple files, you will need to create an archive file of your work (using a compression utility that creates ZIP or .tar.gz format compressed archive), and then submit that archive.

Blackboard will allow resubmissions; in this case, your latest submitted work will overwrite your older submission.

Academic Integrity

Students are reminded that they should avoid the chance of plagiarism in their work. Rules, policies, and guidelines regarding plagiarism and academic integrity can be accessed from the following links:

Getting Feedback

Assignment feedback will generally be available approximately two weeks from the original submission date. Feedback will be sent to your RMIT student email account. If there are any delays to the marking process for an assignment, your instructor will notify the class through Blackboard.

If you submitted your assignment late, please note that assignments submitted on time are given priority in the marking pool.

Other Important Policies

Special Consideration

If you have a prolonged illness or circumstance that requires an extension, you should refer to RMIT's Special Consideration unit. You can access their web page at this address:


For students with a disability, you are encouraged to get in contact with RMIT's Disability Liaison Unit to arrange some reasonable adjustments for your assessment. You can access their web page at this address: