Course Syllabus

CompSci154 - Computer Design Lab

Prof. A. Veidenbaum


Prerequisites: CompSci151 (or equivalent). CompSci152 is also recommended, concurrent registration in 152 OK

Optional Textbook: Andrew Rushton, "VHDL for Logic Synthesis", McGraw Hill Publishing Co



This course is an introduction to computer system design. It examines a detailed design of major processor units, such as the register file, ALU, PC unit, memory interface, and control unit and how they work together to execute programs. It introduces students to a syntesizeable subset of a hardware description language VHLD and teaches students how to design and verify a processor using the language. The use of CAD tools, design synthesis and verification are also introduced. Each student designs and verifies a complete processor that can execute a subset of MIPS ISA.

The course assumes the knowledge of the basic elements used in designing a computer system, such as combinational and sequential logic, and uses them to design an ALU, register file, memory, and the basic control for these subsystems (some of these concepts will be reviewed). In addition to teaching students the design skills, the course helps students to better understand how a processor works.

The course deals with design at the logic level, not circuit (transistor-level) design. Using CAD tools students produce working hardware using FPGA technology.


After taking this course, you should be able to:

- Better understand how a processor works

- Describe computer components using a hardware description language -

- Design all major blocks of a simple processor

- Design a control unit and make a complete processor

- Simulate program execution on your design

- Learn how to verify design correctness

- Learn how to synthesize hardware from a VHDL design


The course is composed of two components: lectures and labs. The objective of the lectures is to introduce and help you learn VHDL and CAD tools, processor design and verification concepts. The lab has three objectives: learn to program in VHDL and use the CAD tools, review logic design, and introduce the design and verification of main processor components and of the complete processor. The bulk of your work will be in the lab.



Instructor:              Professor A. Veidenbaum

Office: 3056 Bren Hall

Mail: alexv@ics

Office Hours: Immediately after class or by appointment.


All lab assignments will be posted on the web and must be submitted electronically on EEE.

Late assignments will NOT be accepted (exceptions for illness or other cases may be made, in writing, and submitted to the TA or instructor).



Your grade in CS154 will depend on your performance in class and lab assignments. The following approximate weights are going to be used:

Class attendance and participation - 10%. Class and lab attendance are mandatory

Lab - 90%


Individual lab assignments carry different weights depending on the degree of difficulty, approximately 3/5/10/10/15/25.

We'll try to grade the material as quickly as possible, but grading is not instantaneous.

Lab assignment results will be posted online.

If you wish to have something re-graded, you MUST write a cover sheet and hand it to the TA or the instructor. Explain why you believe a problem (or problems) was mis-graded. The re-grades will only be considered for a period of 1 week following the date of the result posting.


Lab Assignments (Tentative)

Lab 1: Learn to use VHDL, make a simple design, test it

Lab 2: Design and verify a register file

Lab 3: Design and verify a simple data path

Lab 4: Add instruction fetch to the data path

Lab 5: Add Ld/St, branches, to the data path

Lab 6: Design a control unit for the data path (as implemented in Lab 5), put together and verify the complete processor

Synthesis Lab