For Professor Alyssa


Option 2 - Paper on Computer Architecture

Important Note:  Your instructor may choose to assign either the product survey project or a paper on computer architecture.  Both are described below.  You will be assigned only one.  Note that this the instructor's option, not the student's option.


(architecture topic selection due Wk 2; 
final architecture paper due Wk 4)

Initial topic selection and sources are due Sunday, ___ (Week 2)

Final paper is due Sunday, ­­­___ (Week 4)

The goal of this assignment is to increase your understanding of the concepts of computer infrastructure architecture. 

You will use the theoretical studies of computer hardware and software and apply them to a study of real-world systems and technologies.  After using library and Internet research, you are to write a paper discussing and explaining the hardware and software architecture of the subject system or technology.  You are encouraged to use a Web to research the computer architectures involved.  The paper is not to be based solely or primarily on the textbook or WebTycho Course Content. 

The paper must be your original work, in your own words, and written for this class.  Do not simply copy/paste information from the Web or textbook.  Such submissions will not be accepted for credit.  Research projects should be original work for IFSM 310; therefore, you may not re-use of a paper written you’ve written for a different class.

The body of the paper should be no more than 12 point type, not less than 2 pages or 600 words and not more than 4 pages or 900 words, not including title page, table of contents (if any), executive summary (if any), and reference bibliography.  The paper will require a title page, 2-4 pages of content with incorporation of a minimum of 3 external resources from credible sources, and a Works Cited/Reference page. 

The "General Paper and Writing Requirements" for all papers (above) must be adhered to for this assignment, except as specifically noted (e.g., table of contents is optional, page limits are 2-4 pages, etc.).

The specific topic (including the specific computers and models or the specific technologies to be studied) for the paper must be submitted and approved in advance as described under "Topic selection", below.  A list of suggested topics from which students can choose is provided under "Topics for Research Paper" below:


Topics for Research Paper

  1. An in-depth case study of a particular machine or architecture type.  E.g., …
    1. A particular supercomputer and its architecture (Stretch, ILLIAC, Cray, CDC 6600, IBM 360/195, IBM Blue Gene, etc.)
    2. Supercomputer concepts (pipelining, vector machines, massive multiprocessing, etc.).  But it's a rather broad topic.  Narrow it down and don't get in over your head. 
    3. Fault-tolerant architecture concepts
    4. A unique or seminal concept or research computer (MULTICS, Burroughs tagged architecture machines (B5000, B6500, B1700), Rice tagged architecture, the Rice Research Computer (R1, R2, etc), the "Symbol" computer, etc.) and its contribution to computer technology
    5. A seminal computer in history (ENIAC, EDVAC, IAS, Babbage's Difference Engine, Babbage's Analytical Engine, UNIVAC, Mark I, IBM 360 family, IBM 360/67, etc.) and its contribution to computer technology
    6. How computer components such as ALUs and registers are designed at the lower levels from components such as flip-flops, logic gates, switching algebra, electronic circuits, etc., and how they work
    7. Specific special-purpose computers, their architecture, and how they work (display processors, communication processors, I/O processors, graphics cards, NICs, etc.)
    8. A comparative study of the architecture  of 3 or more computers
    9. The history of computer architecture.  But it's a very broad topic.  Narrow it down and don't get in over your head. 
    10. Similar topics that you may propose, which (as with the above) must be approved in advance by the instructor



Some things to consider as you analyze your topic, follow.  (This list is neither required nor sufficient; it is merely suggestive.  Specifics will depend on the specific topic and approach.)

  • What is the specific computer, system, technology, or architecture?
  • What was unique about this computer, architecture, or technology?
  • What was its architecture?  What components was it built out of?  How were they structured?  How did they work together?
  • What were the dynamics?  How did the system work, operate, and do what it did?
  • When was it first done?  What was/were its dates?
  • How did it compare to its contemporaries and its predecessors?  How does it compare to its successors?
  • Was it successful in terms of technology?  How so?  Explain.
  • Was it commercially successful?  How so?  Explain.
  • Computer history:
    • How did technology and architecture change through history?
    • What were the major trends?
    • How did costs, capacities, speeds, etc. change?
    • Comparative architecture:
      • Compare and contrast the architectures and technologies, head-to-head. 
      • What is different between them?  What is the same? 
      • How do they work? 
      • Which is more successful?  Why?
      • What are the relative costs of each?


If you can, please draw or try to provide a diagram of the architecture in question.  In fact, if you can, please also attempt to draw a PMS diagram such as the ones I've been using throughout this course. 


Submission and Grading


Topic selection (ArchTopic)

Initial ArchTopic topic selection and sources are due Sunday, 27.Jan.2013 (Week 2) - 1 pt.

Your topic selection should consist of your preferred topic from the above list, including the specifics of the item.  For example, not "a particular supercomputer" but "ILLIAC IV" or "Cray-1" or "Cray X-MP" or "Blue Gene", etc; and not "a seminal computer in history" but "ENIAC" or "EDVAC", etc.

Your topic selection submission should also include at least three reference sources that you have found that have relevant material about your selected topic.  You should list them in APA bibliographic format as a Reference page. 

When completed, submit your topic selection with sources in your Assignments Folder.  There is no need to post a copy in the weekly Conference.

The professor will either approve your topic selection if it appears viable, or if it appears problematic will disapprove it and send it back to you for re-work and re-submission. 

Resubmission must be within 3 days from when it was disapproved and returned, and must be resubmitted via Tycho Private Messaging (because WebTycho will have locked the Assignments Folder).


Final paper (ArchPaper)

The final ArchPaper is due Sunday, 13.Apr.2014 (Week 4) - 5 pts for paper, plus 2 pts supplemental.

When completed, submit your final paper for grading in your Assignments Folder and post a copy in the Architecture Paper Conference so that your classmates can read about your selected architecture topic, and you can read about theirs.  Only the Assignments Folder copy will be graded.  Any paper that is posted only in the Conference and not in the Assignments Folder will not be graded and will earn a score of zero.  Any paper that is also posted in the Conference will earn a few extra points for sharing.

Remember that in accordance with the policy in the Syllabus, students must submit all final papers (including this ArchPaper) to and must attach the TurnItIn "Originality Report" to the submission in the Assignments Folder along with the paper itself.  Draft papers and topic selection (ArchTopic) need not be run through TurnItIn.  See "TurnItIn Requirement" in "General Paper and Writing Requirements" for Class ID and password.

Remember that the correct TurnItIn report to submit is the Originality Report, not the Digital Receipt.


Grading rubric

Format, structure, style, and mechanics:   approx. ≈30%

Content and substance:                          approx. ≈70%

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