ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
Accredited by ABET
Undergraduate Programs

ECE 4500 Fundamentals of Computer Systems


Fall 2014 textbook list

The Fall 2014 ECE textbook list is available online for students.

Current Prerequisites & Course Offering

For current prerequisites for a particular course, and to view course offerings for a particular semester, see the Virginia Tech Course Timetables.

Return to course list

ECE 4500 Fundamentals of Computer Systems (3C)

Fundamental principles and concepts of computer systems. Computer hardware; Boolean logic; number systems and representation; design and operation of digital logic; instruction set architectures and computer organization; and basics of data communication and networking. Partially duplicates ECE 3504 and 4504. Master of Information Technology students only.

What is the reason for this course?

An understanding of the fundamentals of computer hardware, computer systems, data communications, and networking is essential to being able to analyze and develop effective information systems. Thus, this body of knowledge is important to any information technology (IT) professional and is considered to be part of the foundation for the Master of Information Technology (MIT) program. The topics of this course provide breadth for IT professionals developing software applications or developing or managing information systems and decision support systems. The topics of the course provide core, fundamental knowledge for IT professionals designing or integrating computer hardware, designing or managing networks, or designing or managing communications systems. MIT students without a background in electrical engineering, computer engineering, or computer science can use this course gain breadth and a foundation in computer systems. Such preparatory material is currently distributed across multiple ECPE courses, as is sound for a traditional undergraduate program. This course provides IT students with focused course content.

Online course taught for Master of Information Technology students only. Typically offered: Fall, Spring, Summer I. Program Area: Computers.

Prerequisites: Ability to program in a modern high-level programming language.

Why are these prerequisites or corequisites required?

Students should be able to program in a high-level language, such as BASIC, C, C++, Java, or Pascal; and have practical user level experience with computers, operating systems, and application software.

Department Syllabus Information:

Major Measurable Learning Objectives:
  • Derive logical operations using Boolean operators.
  • Design and analyze simple combinational and synchronous sequential logic circuits.
  • Analyze sequential behavior using timing diagrams and state diagrams.
  • Represent numerical and non-numerical data using standard encoding methods.
  • Explain the basic organization of a computer, including the instruction set architecture, functions of the central processing unit, cache memory, main memory, mass storage, and other input/output devices.
  • Explain the principles of operation of von Neumann architectures.
  • Analyze instruction formats and explain the fetch, decoding, and execution of standard instructions.
  • Explain the relationship between system hardware, operating system software, and software applications.
  • Explain the operation of synchronous and asynchronous data communications and synthesize data streams for standard data communication schemes.
  • Determine the content of data packets given packet formats.

Course Topics
Topic Percentage
Abstractions in computer systems 5%
Number representation 5%
Representation of non-numeric data 5%
Boolean logic 5%
Combinational logic design 15%
Sequential logic design 10%
Instruction set architecture 15%
Compilers and assemblers 5%
Microarchitecture 10%
Memory 5%
Busses and input/output devices 5%
Data communications, networking, and protocols 15%

Return to course list