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Experiencing the reality of the hardware-software interface - a new approach to teaching introductory level digital electronics and computer architecture

Anstey, Terence and Jonkman, Mirjam (2006). Experiencing the reality of the hardware-software interface - a new approach to teaching introductory level digital electronics and computer architecture. In: 17th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, Auckland, New Zealand, 10-13 December 2006.

Document type: Conference Paper
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IRMA ID 80801114xPUB1
Author Anstey, Terence
Jonkman, Mirjam
Title Experiencing the reality of the hardware-software interface - a new approach to teaching introductory level digital electronics and computer architecture
Conference Name 17th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Conference Location Auckland, New Zealand
Conference Dates 10-13 December 2006
Conference Publication Title Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Place of Publication Auckland, New Zealand
Publisher School of Engineering, Auckland University of Technology
Publication Year 2006
ISBN 978-0-473-11881-5   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Start Page 816
End Page 822
Total Pages 7
HERDC Category E1 - Conference Publication (DEST)
Abstract A problem with many introductory digital electronics and computer architecture courses is that the digital logic view of bits and gates seems far removed from students' day-to-day experience using computers. Students who do not have a good understanding of the underlying hardware often have considerable difficulties learning assembler language. When two previously separate subjects "Computer Organisation and Architecture" of the School of Information Technology and "Digital Electronics" of the School of Engineering were merged in 2005 at Charles Darwin University, the opportunity was taken to further integrate the teaching of hardware and assembler language with the aim to strengthen the understanding of the interaction between the two areas. A project based approach was chosen, culminating in the design of a fully functional 16-bit stored program computer. A modular design strategy was taken; the students initially constructed very simple components, which they incorporated into more complex components as their knowledge increased. This provided the students with a clear understanding of the task at hand and ensured that they did not become overwhelmed by the size of the project to be undertaken. During the design phase, the students were provided with detailed specifications for the functionality of the components. The components were then developed and tested and successively integrated into a fully functional computer. Student design and programming ability were significantly enhanced by the integrated hardware-software approach chosen for teaching computer architecture and digital electronics, with little difference between Information Technology and Engineering students. The modular approach enabled students to troubleshoot small components by themselves, enhancing self learning. In conclusion, the direction followed ensured that Information Technology students now had a much better understanding of the underlying hardware issues when programming in assembler while the Electrical Engineering students appreciated the nature of assembler programming as related to the hardware structure.
Keyword Assembler
Computer architecture
Digital electronics
Hardware
Modular
 
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Created: Fri, 12 Sep 2008, 08:35:25 CST by Administrator