ECEN 676: Advanced Computer Architecture

Spring 2012

Class Time: M W 4:10 - 5:25p

Class Room: ZACH 223A

Instructor: Dr. Paul V. Gratz

Office: WERC 333D

Office Phone: 488-4551

Office Hours: Scheduled on-demand.


Grader: Pritha Ghoshal


Course Description:

Computer architects have been striving to improve performance since the first stored program computer was designed half a century ago.  Superscalar execution is a key technique towards this aim.  Superscalar processors issue more than one instruction per cycle.  Most modern microprocessors from the latest smartphone ARM processors to IBM's latest Power7 employ superscalar issue and other instruction-level parallelism techniques to enhance their performance.  This course examines the tradeoffs and design considerations in the design of superscalar or instruction level parallel (ILP) microprocessors.  The course will also explore other current architectural approaches to improve performance.

Course Contents:

A quantitative and qualitative understanding of superscalar, superpipelined, dataflow, EDGE and VLIW processors; Available parallelism in programs; Out of order instruction execution; Reservation stations; Reorder buffers; Exception handling in out of order processors; Branch prediction techniques; Memory systems for superscalar processors; Cache organizations; Memory disambiguation and load/store reordering; Performance evaluation of superscalar processors; Multicore processors; Composable distributed processors.

Course Objectives:

  • Teach the fundamentals of state of the art microprocessors
  • Give the student experience in state of the art computer architecture tools
  • Give the student exposure to computer architecture research
  • Give the student experience in technical writing
  • Give the student experience in project presentations


ECEN 651 Microprogrammed Control of Digital Systems or CPSC 614 Computer Architecture or approval of instructor.
Talk to the professor if you have questions on prerequisite.
Some programming skills (C and Unix) and at least one assembly language.
Interest in state-of-the-art microprocessors



  • Modern Processor Design: Fundamentals of Superscalar Processors, John P. Shen and Mikko Lipasti, McGraw Hill Publishers. 
  • A Collection of Papers from conferences and journals.  Available via TAMU Library website.

References (Purchase not required):

  • Superscalar Microprocessor Design, by Mike Johnson, Prentice Hall Publishers 
  • Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, by Hennessy and Patterson, Morgan Kaufman 
  • Computer Organization and Design, Fourth Edition, Fourth Edition: The Hardware/Software Interface, by Patterson and Hennessy, Morgan Kaufman
  • Parallel Computer Architecture: A Hardware/Software Approach by David Culler, J.P. Singh, and Anoop Gupta, Morgan Kaufman
  • Principles and Practices of Interconnection Networks by W. J. Dally and B. Towles, Morgan Kaufman
  • TAMU Library, Electrical Engineering Subject Guide

Grading Policy:

Logistical Issues:

You are responsible to read this information and familiarize yourself with the important logistical information on it.

Disruptive behavior: If a student's behavior in class is sufficiently disruptive to warrant immediate action, the instructor is entitled to remove a student on an interim basis, pending an informal hearing with the Head of the Department offering the course. This hearing must take place within three working days of the student's removal. This rule and supporting information may be found at

Accommodations for students with disabilities: It is the responsibility of the student to provide instructors with documentation showing they have registered with Disability Services and requested accommodation. Instructors then have the responsibility to work with Disability Services to provide reasonable accommodations. If a student who has not registered with Disability Services requests an accommodation, they should be referred to Disability Services at .

Email Policy: Please remember that email will be used as an official means of communicating class information to you. You should make sure that the email address on file in Howdy is a current and functioning address. In case of any changes in your email address, please let me know ASAP.

eLearning System: The Texas A&M eLearning System will be used in this course for the distribution of assignment files, papers for critique, and lecture notes.  This system will also be used for all assignment turn-ins and grade distribution.

Academic Honesty: Plagiarism will not be tolerated and will be dealt with under the Aggie Honor System Office guidelines. Upon discovering a suspected violation of the Aggie Honor code, I will contact the Aggie Honor System office  Note that plagiarism can also apply to improper accreditation in literature surveys!  Be sure to cite ALL your sources