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ArmEducationX: Introduction to Microprocessors

An introduction to computer architecture, microprocessors and CPUs. Learn about the basic components of a PC, what they do, how they talk to each other and how object code gets transformed into machine code. The topics covered by this course are key to anyone interested in computer hardware engineering but also an essential foundation for software programming.

5 weeks
1–2 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

There is one session available:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Apr 16
Ends Sep 3

About this course

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Want to understand how the central processing unit (CPU) of a microprocessor works? How the code you type is actually executed by your computer? Presented by engineers from Arm, this course provides you with an introduction to the central components of processors including:

  • the Arithmetic Logic Unit, or ALU, and the arithmetic and logical operations it carries out;
  • the Fetch-Decode-Execute cycle or FDE within different architectures;
  • pipelining, or how a CPU decides what to prioritise and the challenges faced when doing so;
  • types of memory and their uses;
  • the process that high level code, such as C#, goes through to get converted into machine code;
  • assembly code, an interim step between high level and machine level code; and
  • how assembling and compiling work together to produce object code or executable files.

There is also a practical opportunity to be introduced to an assembly language.

At a glance

  • Institution: ArmEducationX
  • Subject: Computer Science
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:
    • Experience of programming in object code, such as Python or C
    • Basic Boolean algebra (AND, OR, XOR, NOT)
  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English

What you'll learn

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You will learn:

  • The purpose, specs, components and activities of a CPU
  • The differences and uses of RAM, ROM, and cache memory
  • The purpose and activities of buses and registers
  • Opcode, operands and memory addresses
  • The purpose and operations of an arithmetic logic unit
  • The fetch-decode-execute cycle
  • The need for assembly and machine code
  • Basic conversion of assembly code to machine code

Module 1: Introduction to the CPU

An introduction to the CPU, the importance of binary in Computing, and the central components of processors.

Module 2 The ALU and Decode Unit

An exploration of the Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU), the arithmetical and logical operations it carries out, often on a bit-by-bit level.

Module 3 The Fetch-Decode-Execute Cycle

A discussion of the Fetch-Execute or Fetch-Decode-Execute cycle (FDE). Consideration of some elements which impact the performance of the CPU, the connecting types of memory, and pipelining.

Module 4 Assembly Language

Discussion of the need for machine code and the process to convert object code to machine code. A practical introduction to assembly language through the BSim emulator.

Learner testimonials

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"Excellent introduction to microprocessors" Isabel Culmer, school/K-12 teacher in Computing and winner of the David Clark prize for teaching engineering

"Clear, concise and focused" Christian Broadway, Programme Director (Electronic Engineering) at Aston University, UK

"Very insightful and a good reinforcement of concepts I learnt at university and previous studies" Pradhay Amarnath, Software Engineering university/college student

"I took a System Architecture module (beginner level) as part of my university studies, and my learning experience would have improved greatly if this course was available back then." Mai Pham, Central Engineering, Arm

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