Introduction to computers

Quadrimestre 1 - All options

48 hours

Coordinator : NVS

Teaching staff : NVS, CLG

General course description

The course starts with the binary encoding of numerical and non-numerical information. Boolean algebra as well as combinational and sequential logic circuits are thoroughly studied. The course deals afterwards with the functioning of the arithmetic and logic unit as well as the behaviour of the memory. The detailed progress of machine instruction in the central unit, the working of the sequencer (wired or microprogrammed) as well as information exchanges out of the central unit (simplified machine) are finally studied.

Learning basic skills


Course Aims

The course aims at understanding the functioning of a computer. How do we establish a dialogue with a computer which only understands a binary language (1 or 0)? The purpose is to teach students who have been familiar so far exclusively with decimal approaches the new language of logic circuits through initiation to the Boolean algebra. This scaling down to the most simplified language of a simplified machine is unavoidable to scale up to a more sophisticated language (assembler) and ultimately to even more intricate languages.

Course Outline

The course mainly follows the book by Zanella-Ligier mentioned in the bibliography (chapters I, II, III, V, VII, VIII, IX, X).

  • Introduction, history and BINARY encoding of the information (chapters I, II, III)
  • BOOLEAN logic and combinational circuits and ALU (arithmetic and logic unit) (chapter V)
  • Logic and sequential circuits, automaton and MEMORIES (chapters V and VII)
  • Workings of the simplified machine and DMA. (chapter VIII)
  • Basic physics and high technology (cisc vs. risc and other pipelines...) (chapters IX and X)


  • no course book as such
  • The first two following references are available at the library of ESI :
  • Paolo Zanella, Yves Ligier et Émmanuel Lazard, Architecture et technologie des ordinateurs, Dunod, Paris (dernière édition, 2013)
  • Abdelaziz M'zoughi et Jacques Jorda, Mini manuel d'architecture de l'ordinateur, Dunod, Paris (2012)
  • Robert Strandh et Irène Durand, Architecture de l'ordinateur (cours condensé avec exercices corrigés), Dunod, Paris (2005)
  • Émmanuel Lazard, Architecture de l'ordinateur, Pearson Education France, Paris (2006)