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Introduction to Computer Hardware and Software
Contact Information Course Description Course Goals and Objectives Course Outline Calendar
Course Materials Grading Attendance and Participation Assignments Honesty

Contact Information

Professor Richard J. Povinelli, Ph.D.
Phone 414.288.7088
Office Hours Haggerty Hall 221

Course Description and Prerequisites

Course Goals

Course Objectives

The objectives of this course are to introduce all students in Electrical and Computer Engineering to the fundamentals issues in the design of computer hardware and software. This includes (but is not limited to):

This course serves two different populations. For students pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering or the Computer Engineering course option, this course forms the prerequisite for more in-depth study in the areas of computer engineering and computer science. For students pursuing the Electronics course option, this course provides a broad overview of many of the important topics in computer engineering and computer science, both hardware and software. For all students, this course should be a very interesting study of perhaps the preeminent example of a complex engineering system, the computer.

As is always the case in engineering courses, one learns the material only through practice. We will "practice" hardware design mostly on paper, in the form of problem sets. We will "practice" software design by learning and using three languages (Little Man Computer Language, MIPS assembly language, and Java). It is important for you to attend class discussions and participate in them, to read the assigned text material, use references when appropriate and to complete all assignment on time.

Course Outline

Course Materials

Required Texts

An Introduction to Hardware and Software Design, by L.L. Wear, J.R. Pinkert, L.C. Wear, and W.G. Lane, McGraw-Hill, 1991.

Java In Plain English, 2nd Edition, by Brian Overland, MIS:Press, 1997.


What Number Value per Total
Homework 9 15 135
Design Projects 3 100 300
In class
2 125 250
1 255 255
Participation 15 4 60
Total 1000

NOTE: All dates and numbers are subject to change as deemed necessary!

Grade Scale

93+ A
90-93 A-
87-90 B+
83-87 B
80-83 B-
77-80 C+
73-77 C
70-73 C-
67-70 D+
60-67 D
0-60 F

The grading scale is the most stringent one you will be held to, i.e. I can give you a higher letter grade than shown on the scale, but never a lower one. If you have missing assignments, you are inelligible to receive a higher grade.

Late Assignments

I will deduct 5% for assignments up to one day late, 10% for two days late, and 15% for up to three days late, and so on up to a maximum of 50% off. Assignments are due at the beginning of class. They are late after that. Assignments are not accepted after solutions have been distributed, nor after the last day of class. In class assignments are only accepted during the class period they are assigned.

Attendance and Participation


Homework assignments

There will be nine (9) homework assignments which will be collected and graded. The homework assignments will be scaled to 135 points. This is a good way to accumulate 135 points and is an excellent way to prepare for the exams.

Most homework assignment will consist of five (5) questions that I come up with and then five (5 ) questions that you formulate. A completed homework assignment will consist of the 10 questions with answers. Your answers must be of the same complexity and effort as my questions. If they are not they will be marked down. The homework assignment will be ftp'd to a my ftp site as a single stand alone html document. Any gif or jpeg images that are part of the solution must also be included. Everything must be in one directory. I will post your assignments on my webpage.

Design projects

There will be three (3) design projects worth a total of 300 points. These are more challenging and time-consuming problems which will involve software design, as well as extensive use of programming languages. Each team will turn in a floppy disk with a file containing the source code and a working executable image, as well as a written report which describes the major software design components.

It is due according to the the time specified in the calendar.


There will be two in class exams worth 125 points each and one final worth 255 points. The exams will be spaced evenly throughout the session. The exams will be one class period long. each. The final will be two hours long. See the calendar for the dates.

You will write the exams for the most part. I will use the questions and answers you submit as the homework assignment as the basis for the exam. I will add a few questions so that the exam doesn't become an exercise in rote memorization. These questions will focus mainly on the knowledge gained from doing the projects. But for the most part the exams will be based directly on the questions I give you and the questions you come up with. This is why I'm asking for the study sheets to be submitted in html format. This way everyone will have an opportunity to see all the potential questions.

All written portions of assignments must be created using a word processor. No part of the writeup may be hand drawn. The assignments are to be well written with proper spelling and grammar. Points will be deducted for poorly written assignments. Written portions of assignments must be turned in as MS Word documents (.docx format). Code and other portions must be submitted in the proper electronic format. I will deducted 5% from incorrectly formatted assignments.

All assignments must be turned in via D2L. Assignments are due according to the the time specified in the D2L calendar.


There will be a midterm exam worth 200 points. There will be a final exam worth 300 points.

Academic Integrity