CSc 050
Assignment 1 - Computer Architecture
Due Mon, Sept. 19, 2005


Answer the following questions after reading Chapters 1-4 in CC. Please type your answers and use complete sentences.

Part 1: True/False (16 pts., 2 each)
For each of the following, tell whether the statement is true or false. Then justify your answer. Failure to explain an answer will cost you half the available points for that question. You will find each question in the "True or False" section on the given page in CC.

Part 2: Discussion Questions (6 pts.)
Answer the following

  1. In class, I gave you a block diagram showing how different hardware components work together when a computer is first turned on. What are ROM and BIOS, what roles do they play during the startup process?

  2. Consider the following computer input:


    The computer may read this as a number or as a set of ASCII codes. Explain how these concepts differ.

Part 3: Computer comparison (8 pts.)
Note: you'll want to read this question online. If you are reading this on paper, go to the Homework section of our CSc 050 web page at and continue reading this question there. Read the entire question before starting.

Below are links to two specific PC systems offered for purchase by two popular manufacturers: Dell and Gateway. Your task is to compare and contrast the two systems bringing to bear your knowledge about computer architecture to see which system is the better buy. Both are about the same price, so you should focus on the specification details to see which offers more. Be sure to tackle the following questions for each component you compare in the two systems:

  1. What is the component used for?
  2. Which system is better as far as that component is concerned? Or are they the same?
  3. Are there details about the component that are not listed in the specifications that you would like to know about in order to draw a definite conclusion? Why is that detail important?

Point #3 above is especially important. The links below are links to copies of systems that were on Dell's and Gateway's pages some time ago. They probably have changed by now, so do not go to Gateway's and Dell's sites to find out more. You may find different info. In the same way, most of the links on the page copies below don't work, and you shouldn't use them. I want to see how much information you can gather from just the two web pages I've provided. You telling me on what you would want more detail tells me a lot about what you do and do not understand.

The Gateway FX400S system
The Dell Dimension 9100 system

Remember, the web pages linked to above are copies of real pages on Dell's and Gateway's sites. So ignore merchandizing ploys that tell you nothing like "now with improved ZZX technology!" Answering this question by saying "only the Gateway has ZZX technology" doesn't help you know which is better and doesn't convince me that you know what you are talking about. Be detailed about (1) why the component you are comparing/contrasting is important to consider, (2) what the component actually does for you (like, "it lets you run more applications simultaneously"), and (3) which is better.

What to turn in

Please turn in this assignment on paper. Nothing needs to be turned in electronically for this assignment.

Administrative statement

Homeworks are individual projects. I encourage you to talk to others about the general nature of the homework and ideas about how to pursue it. However, the technical work, the writing, and the inspiration behind these must be substantially your own. If any person besides you contributes in any way to the project, you must credit their work on your homework. Similarly, if you include information that you have gleaned from other published sources, you must cite them as references. Looking at, and/or copying, other people's homework or written work is inappropriate and will be considered cheating.
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