Introduction to Computing Systems

ECEn/CS 124 Course Syllabus



NOTE: this web page is no longer being used. ECEn/CS-124 is now based on BYU's Learning Suite.


ECEN/CS 124 is designed as an introductory course to computer systems. The focus is on understanding computer organization - the inner workings of a modern computer, from binary number representation to how a C program is compiled, linked, and executed. At the end of the course, the student will have a basic understanding of:

. Boolean algebra and binary number representation

. Logic gates, storage functions, and their transistor implementations

. Arithmetic and logical operations on binary numbers

. Simple computer architecture

. Computer operations and instructions

. Input-Output (I/O)

. Subroutine linkage and stacks

. Assembly language

. C syntax and basic programming

. Basic data structures

. Activation records and recursion


The student will gain a new appreciation of the power of abstraction through this course. Modern computing is only possible with complexity management through abstraction.


Class Materials


Each student is responsible for acquiring and maintaining the following hardware required items:


1.      A Texas Instruments MSP430 eZ430-F2013 Development Tool.  The tool may be purchased from the BYU ECEn Stock Room (416 CB, signature card only) or directly online from Texas Instruments for $20 at (


2.      An eZ430X daughter board w/eZ430-RF2500 micro-controller, thermistor, and servo from the BYU ECEn Stock Room (416 CB, signature card only) for $90.


Note: Please observe precautions when handling these electrostatic sensitive devices.  Beware of static electricity, don't touch the components directly.  Never disconnect a target board from the USB programmer if still plugged into the computer or from the battery unit with jumper on.  Always observe correct polarity when attaching the USB programmer.  Otherwise you may destroy your board!


The following text is required:


3.      C Programming Language (2nd Edition, Prentice Hall) by by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie.  This text can be purchased from the BYU Bookstore or online from a book dealer like (


 Finally, the following text is highly recommended but not required:


4.      MSP430 Microcontroller Basics by John H. Davies.  Again, order on-line from (~$40) (


These materials will be used extensively throughout the course for instruction, homework, and lab assignments.  Additional supplemented by materials may be found on the class website ( There will also be times when information is given in class that is neither in the text books nor on-line.  Class attendance and notes are important.


Class Website / Blackboard


All materials relating to the class can be accessed via the class website.  This includes the class syllabus, schedule, Powerpoint lectures, homework, and labs.  Announcements, email, homework, homework solutions, lab submission, and most importantly, grades are maintained on Blackboard.  Every student is responsible to frequently check Blackboard for announcements and verify that homework, exam, and lab grades have been correctly recorded.


Programming Environments


Please make note of the following:


. ECEn/CS 124 will be taught this semester using the following hardware/software:

            - Texas Instruments MSP430 eZ430-F2013 Development Tool,

            - BYUís eZ430X Rev C (eZ430-RF2500) development board,

            - BYUís Digital FSM simulator,

            - BYUís MSP430 micro-architecture simulator,

            - Texas Instruments Eclipse based Code Composer Essentials V3 (or Code Composer

               Studio) editor / assembler / compiler,

            - and the Windows operating system.

.  All Windows machines in the Talmage Building (TMCB) supported by the Computer Science Department (such as rooms 1149, 1119, and 1121) have the necessary class software (Digital FSM simulator, MSP430 micro-architecture simulator, and Code Composer Essentials editor/assembler/compiler) already installed in the folder named ECEn 124 or CS 124.

. Currently, Unix and Linux machines are not supported.

. Personal computers with the Windows operating system can download the Digital FSM and MSP430 micro-architecture simulators, and a 16k limited Code Composer Essentials (or Code Composer Studio from from the class website.  All are free!

. In any case, it is the studentís responsibility to present their lab work to a TA on a personal computer or in TMCB 1147/1149 for pass off.


Computer Lab Assignments


ECEn / CS 124 is a "hands on" course with lab assignments passed off by TAs on a personal computer or in a Tallmadge Computer Science computer lab (1147/1149 TMCB).  There is one warm-up lab, ten required lab assignments designed to emphasize topics discussed in class. The lab assignments explore programming at various abstraction levels in a computer system.  Please pay careful attention to the following guidelines:


. Lab assignments can be found under the ďLabsĒ tab on the class website.

. Lab due dates (different, according to your last name) can be found under the "Schedule" tab on the class website.

. Lab assignments must be completed and submitted with a Blackboard timestamp on or before the due date to receive full credit. 

. Any lab assignment completed after the due date will lose 10% per school day (except the second chance labs).

. Lab assignments are to be passed off by a TA, during regular TA hours, and in a Tallmadge Computer Science computer lab (1147/1149 TMCB).

. Lab assignments can be passed off on school computers or personal laptops with Internet access (see Programming Environments above).  Both the lab grade and the lab source code will need to be web submitted at that time.  The TA passes you of will enter your grade on Blackboard.

. As an incentive to get your labs done early, labs passed off by a TA at least one day before the due date (timestamps do not count) will receive an additional 10% bonus credit.  (Also, please note that labs completed in previous semesters DO NOT qualify for bonus credit.)

. All lab assignments offer bonus points. These bonus points can be used to make up the points you might lose on other labs or missing labs. Any grade points earned on labs above the allotted lab percentage will apply up to 5% to your overall grade.

. Lab bonus points may only be awarded after all lab regular requirements have been met.

. Since bonus credit is available for each lab, there will be no rounding of final points.  However, the instructor reserves the right to modify the grading percentages in favor of the student as deemed advisable at the end of the semester.

. All labs MUST BE COMPLETED, PASSED OFF, AND ELECTRONICALLY SUBMITTED on or before the last day of class of the semester. Two labs are allowed to be completed on or before the 2nd Chance lab due date (see schedule).


You are welcome and encouraged to discuss the lab assignments with your classmates and others outside of class.  However, you are to do and submit your own work.  Submitting someone elseís work is considered violation of the Honor Code.  No grade is worth the consequences of dishonesty!




Homework assignments are designed to reinforce class material and help in exam preparation.  Please pay careful attention to the following guidelines:


. Homework is assigned weekly and due at midnight on the due dates (beginning in the 2nd week).

. Homework due dates can be found under the "Schedule" tab on the class website.

. Most homework consists of 5 to 10 questions and covers the material from the previous two or three class discussions.

. Homework must be submitted electronically on Blackboard. 

. Any homework submitted after midnight on the date it is due will lose 10% per school day.  (After 1 week or 5 school days, an assignment has no grading value.).

. Homework will be greaded automatically online after submission. However, due to difference in wording, errors caused by the automatic grading system will be corrected by a TA (don't panic).

. Homework answers will be availabe on Blackboard 1 week after the due date and will be discussed during the help sessions.


You are welcome and encouraged to discuss the homework with your classmates and others outside of class.  However, you are to do and submit your own work.  Submitting someone elseís work or checking answers with each other is considered violating the Honor Code.




Multiple in-class quizzes will be given during the course of the term.  They are designed to review important concepts and to help students prepare for exams.


. Students must register their iClickers ( before the first quiz (the second day of the class).

. For registration online, students need to enter their Route-Y ID and iClicker ID (on the back on the iClicker).

. Quizzes are 10 points each. 

. There will be a total of 16 quizzes. 

. Students will receive participation credit for each quiz. 

. Participation credit can be awarded if the student is excused before the class.  




Two midterms will be administered during the course of the semester and a final exam at the end of the semester. 


. All exams will be administered in the Testing Center.  

. Midterms will be available from Wednesday to Friday. You should plan at least 2 hours for each exam.  

The final exam will be availabe during the entire finals week. You should plan at least 2.5 hours for the final exam.  




Grades will be based on lab assignments (40%), homework (10%), quizzes (10%), midterms (20%), and final exam (20%):


. Lab assignments (40%)

o   Lab 1: Warm-up (1%)

o   Lab 2: Blinky (3%)

o   Lab 3: Stop Light (3%)

o   Lab 4: Morse Code (4%)

o   Lab 5: Simon (5%)

o   Lab 6: MSP430 Micro-Architecture (5%)

o   Lab 7: Digital FSM (4%)

o   Lab 8: Dice (5%)

o   Lab 9: Etch-a-Sketch (5%)

o   Lab 10: Servo (Windshield wipers) (5%)

o   Lab 11: Pong (Canceled)

. Homework (10%)

. Quizzes (10%)

. Midterm 1 (10%)

. Midterm 2 (10%)

. Final Exam (20%)




Grades are assigned on the following scale from the composite total points of above areas:


A   =  94%

B-  =  80%

D+ = 67%

A- =  90%

C+ =  77%

D   =  63%

B+ =  87%

C   =  73%

D- =  60%

B   =  83%

C-  =  70%

E   =  below 60%


Please note the following:


. To receive an A or A- grade for the class, a student must complete all assigned labs and score at least an average of 70% on exams.

. The university policies on 'UW' and 'I' grades are strictly followed.


One final note.  Anyone who completes all the labs and passes the final exam (70%), regardless of the scores recorded for the labs, homework, and mid-term exams, will receive no lower than a C- grade.


Lab/Exam Help Sessions


Lab/exam help sessions will be scheduled beginning the second week of the semester.  (The number of help sessions may be adjusted during the semester according to the need and student attendance.)  During these help sessions, lab instructions will be clarified, algorithms and hints explored, exam previews and results reviewed, answers to homework questions given, and general questions answered.  Although optional, it is recommended that you attend these sessions each week.


Electronic Submission


All lab source material (see lab instructions) and homework assignments are to be submitted electronically.  Electronic submission is managed through Blackboard.  IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO VERIFY THAT YOUR SUBMISSION IS SUCCESSFUL!


Grading Verification and Appeal Policy


It is the studentís responsibility to verify that we have correctly recorded scores.  If a score is incorrect on Blackboard, then the student must follow the appeal process to correct the score.  Incorrectly recorded grades become final after the appeal time frame expires.

The student can appeal a grade on a homework or lab through email to their grading TA.  The appeal must be submitted within 1 week of the score being posted on Blackboard.  Scores are posted on blackboard 1 week after the homework or lab is due.  The student can appeal a grade on an exam directly to the instructor through email.  Midterm appeals must be submitted within 1 week of when the midterm closes at the testing center.  The final exam may be appealed within 1 week of when the grade is posted on Blackboard.  Verbal appeals are not considered.


Academic Honesty


The Honor Code includes a statement of standards regarding academic honesty.  Academic honesty includes completing your own homework, labs, midterms, and final.  Students should work together to help each other understand material, but should always turn in their own work.  Examples of academic dishonesty include sharing code for labs with other students, turning in someone else's writing as your own report, and cheating on an exam.  Any violation of academic honesty standards will result in failing the class.  All violations of academic honesty are documented and reported to the Honor Code office.


Preventing Sexual Harassment and Discrimination


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds.  The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education.  Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment.  The BYU policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well.  If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 378-2847.


Students with Diabilities


Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities.  If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (378-2767).  Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities.  Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the SSD Office.  If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures.  You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895, D-282 ASB.




This syllabus is subject to change during the semester in favor of the student as deemed necessary by the instructor.  All changes will be reported in class as well as clearly posted on Blackboard.  It is the studentís responsibility to stay current with class policies and check Blackboard and email often during the week.