CPSC 220: Introduction to Computer Architecture
Fall 2012, Homework #1

This homework is due at the start of class on the second day of the course, Wednesday, August 29. We will discuss your responses at that time. The point of the two exercises is not to find definitive answers -- there are none -- but to give us something to talk about and to provide some motivation for studying computer architecture.

You should not discuss this homework with anyone; what you turn in should reflect your own ideas. (If you don't understand the assignment, you can ask me about it. You might need help with some terminology.) Any reasonably serious effort will receive full credit for the assignment.

Exercise 1: What's in a CPU?

I received the following email this summer from someone who had just started reading my introductory programming textbook and was trying to understand just what a Central Processing Unit (CPU) is:

Does a CPU contains an internal program? I noticed that in the book an interpreter was likened to a CPU with regards to fetch-and-execute cycle. A program, an interpreter, was conveniently compared with a CPU, so maybe there's an internal program inside the CPU that enables it to perform the fetch-and-execute process.

Could it be that an assembly language was used to create those programming?

Write a one-or-two paragraph reply to this email. Do the best you can with what you know!

Exercise 2: The Supercomputer in Your Pocket

The following chart from our textbook shows price, performance (additions per second), memory (that is, RAM or "main memory"), and other data for a variety of computers from 1951 to 2007:

It's quite likely that you carry a smartphone in your pocket. A smartphone is a small computer, including a processor and RAM. If you own a smartphone, look up the specs for your phone. If you don't own one, choose a common high-end smartphone such as the iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy 2 Sii. How does your phone compare to the computers in the table? Write a paragraph about the comparison.

Specifically, come up with some kind of estimate of how much it would have cost in 1991 to purchase computing power equivalent to the smartphone. Do the same for 1951. Use the smartphone's specification and data from the table. Explain your reasoning and show your calculuations!