Computer organization focuses on how computers work. Students learn the fundamental hardware components of computers, including storage (RAM, hard disks), input/output, and most importantly the processor (CPU). They learn how computer components are designed and built on several levels, including the basic electrical component level and the machine language level. They also learn to program in assembly language for one or more simple computer processors.

Credits 4
Prerequisite CS 151 or equivalent
Semester Fall 2020
Time Zone All the times on this webpage refer to EST.
Date Time, Location

Section A: MWF 9 - 9:50 am, Remote

Section B: MWF 11 - 11:50 am, Davis 308

Lecture Instructor Ying Li
Office: Davis 111
Lab Instructor Stephanie Taylor
Office: Davis 112
Lecture Models

Section A and section B adopt different lecture models this semester to better support various needs.

  • Section A (remote): Students in this section will meet over Zoom MWF 9:00 - 9:50 am weekly. Zoom invitation for this section is provided here (Colby IP Needed).

    Please mute yourself unless you have questions to ask. If you have questions, you can use the "raise hand" function of Zoom. I will let you ask questions when I receive this signal. You can also type your questions in the chatbox. I will check the chatbox from time to time and try to answer your questions promptly.

  • Section B (in-person): Students in this section will meet in-person MWF 11:00 - 11:50 am at Davis 308 weekly.

    Please wear a mask well during the 50-minute class if you join the class in person. It will protect everyone in the classroom, including yourself.

Lectures will be recorded and posted on the course website few hours after each class. If you have to miss one or more lectures for any reason, please let me know in advance. I'm happy to work with you. You also need to arrange another time for you to watch the videos, read the lecture notes, and finish coursework in time. I'm happy to help if you let me know your questions. Feel free to come to my office hours or email me.

We will have a warm-up period for everyone in each section to become familiar with the learning model. Please do not hesitate to share your experience and suggestions/thoughts/comments with me. We need to work together to make everyone feel comfortable in the non-conventional model.

Ying's Virtual Office Hours

MTWR 2:30 - 4:00 pm or by appointment

I will be waiting for you on Zoom 2:30 - 4:00 pm Monday through Thursday. You can find the Zoom invitation for my office hours from here (Colby IP Needed). I look forward to meeting you in my office hours. We can solve your questions together or talk about the topics you are interested in. If you want to meet outside of my office hours, please email me and make an appointment. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. I'll do my best to reply to your email in a timely manner and help you in any way I can.

Virtual Morning and Evening TAs

To best support remote students in a different time zone, we also have student TAs to hold TA sessions in the mornings.

All morning and evening TA sessions will be virtual this semester. TAs will hold their TA sessions over Zoom. Please find the Zoom invitation for evening TA session from here (Colby IP Needed).

Date, Time TA (email)
Sunday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm Lolo Niemiec (
Monday, 7:00 - 10:00 am Matthew Maring (
Monday, 8:30 - 10:30 am Jenniber Franco (
Monday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm Lolo Niemiec (,
Liana Shiroma (,
Izge Bayyurt (
Tuesday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm Brendan Martin (
Course Goals
  1. Students understand standard binary encodings of data and programs.
  2. Students understand the basic electronic components that make up a computer.
  3. Students understand the computer at various layers, including the hardware layer, the machine language layer, and the assembly language layer.
  4. Students are able to write assembly language programs for a simple CPU.
  5. Students understand the significance of new technology in computer science.
  6. Students present methods, algorithms, results, and designs in an organized and competently written manner.
Grading The course grade will be determined as follows:
  • Projects: 45%
  • Weekly Homework: 10%
  • Weekly Quizzes: 20%
  • Class Participation: 10%
  • Final Exam: 15%
Weekly Projects

Projects are assigned usually every Monday. The usual deadline is the following Monday midnight.

Projects will build upon each other, so it is critical to stay on schedule in order to be successful. Projects are graded based on a 30 point scale. Late projects will receive a maximum score of 26/30, so handing in something on the due date is generally better than handing in a complete assignment late.

As you all have busy schedules, you may have one four-day extension you can use at your discretion over the course of the semester, excepting only the final project. That means you may choose to hand in one project on Friday instead of Monday. Please email one of the professors to let them know you are taking your extension before the deadline.

Weekly Homework

Homework assignments are assigned usually every Wednesday. The deadline is Friday at the beginning of the class.

The homework deadline is a hard deadline. We will discuss the solution in Friday's class, so late submission will not be accepted. Homework will be graded in a binary fashion: if you hand in a reasonable attempt before deadline, you get a 1, otherwise a 0.

Homework submission is via email. Please make sure the subject of your email follows this format CS232 Fall2020 HW# -- Your Name (e.g., CS232 Fall2020 HW1 -- Ying Li). If your subject format is correct, you will automatically receive the homework solution.

Weekly Quizzes

Weekly quizzes are an opportunity for you to show me your understanding of the course. Quizzes should be quick and straightforward if you participate in class, study the notes, and complete the homework.

There will be a 5-10 minute online quiz on Moodle every Friday. You have 20 minutes to complete the quiz. The quiz will open on Moodle from the end of Friday's lecture to the midnight of Sunday.

In-person students have two ways to take the quizzes: you can bring your laptop and take the quiz in class; you can also leave the classroom when the quiz starts and finish it before the deadline.

You are expected to take the quiz individually. Please be responsible for yourself.

Each quiz may be made up when a prior request is made or there is a documented health issue. Please contact me immediately in the event of illness and other unforeseen circumstances, we will work out accommodations.

I understand that everyone has a bad day; the lowest quiz grade will be dropped.

Here are the Moodle links to Section A and Section B.

Class Participation

You are expected to attend every lecture and actively join the class discussions. Class discussion is a vital part of the learning experience. A good class discussion needs your contribution.

If you must miss a class, please email me in advance. I'm happy to work with you.

If you plan to take the course asynchronously, please let me know. Video recordings and lecture notes will be posted in the Notes section of this webpage few hours after the class.

Participation also includes coming to my office hours or asking for help from the TA.

Final Exam

There will be a final exam on Moodle at TBD. You will have 2 days to take it. There are no make-ups.


There is no required textbook for this course. All lecture notes will be posted in the Notes section of the webpage.

The following textbook is recommended if you are interested in consulting an additional resource.

Andrew Tanenbaum Structured Computer Organization, Sixth Edition, Prentice Hall, 2012, ISBN 978-0132916523.

How to succeed

Projects: Start working on the projects as early as possible. Ask the TAs, Prof. Taylor, and me for help if you need it. Talk with your peers about the course concepts.

Homework: Homework assignments help you self-check your understanding of the course contents and prepare you better for the quizzes. You are strongly encouraged to try out the homework questions before reading my homework solutions.

Quizzes: Study for the quizzes by doing the homework assignments. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped. So, your grade won't be affected by that single underperformed quiz.

Participation: Be active in class, asking questions and joining discussions. Come to office hours. Ask the instructors or TAs for help.

Final Exam: The final exam will be similar to a large set of quizzes, but is written from a more comprehensive view. To best study for the final exam, you can retake all of the old quizzes, read through your notes, and make sure you understand everything in them.

Collaboration, Academic honesty

This policy applies to anyone you work with other than your partner.

Computer science, both academically and professionally, is a collaborative discipline. In any collaboration, however, all parties are expected to make their own contributions and to generously credit the contributions of others. In our class, therefore, collaboration on homework and programming assignments is encouraged, but you as an individual are responsible for understanding all the material in the assignment and doing your own work. Always strive to do your best, give generous credit to others, start early, and seek help early from both your professors and classmates.

The following rules are intended to help you get the most out of your education and to clarify the line between honest and dishonest work. We reserve the right to ask you to verbally explain the reasoning behind any answer or code that you turn in and to modify your project grade based on your answers. It is vitally important that you turn in work that is your own. We do use automated plagiarism detection software, so please be sure to abide by these, rather minimal, rules. Reports of academic dishonesty are handled by an academic review board and a finding of academic dishonesty may result in significant sanctions. For more details on Colby's Academic Integrity policies and procedures, see

  • If you have had a substantive discussion of any programming project with a classmate, then be sure to cite them in your write-up. If you are unsure of what constitutes "substantive", then ask me or err on the side of caution. As one rule of thumb, if you see more than 10 lines of someone else's code, then you should cite them. You will not be penalized for working together.
  • You must not copy answers or code from another student either by hand or electronically. Another way to think about it is that you should be talking English with one another, not program languages.
The Colby Affirmation

Colby College is a community dedicated to learning and committed to the growth and well-being of all its members.

As a community devoted to intellectual growth, we value academic integrity. We agree to take ownership of our academic work, to submit only work that is our own, to fully acknowledge the research and ideas of others in our work, and to abide by the instructions and regulations governing academic work established by the faculty.

As a community built on respect for ourselves, each other, and our physical environment, we recognize the diversity of people who have gathered here and that genuine inclusivity requires active, honest, and compassionate engagement with one another. We agree to respect each other, to honor community expectations, and to comply with College policies.

As a member of this community, I pledge to hold myself and others accountable to these values. More ...

Title IX Statement

Colby College prohibits and will not tolerate sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination of any kind. Colby is legally obligated to investigate sexual misconduct (including, but not limited to sexual assault and sexual harassment).

If you wish to speak confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, please contact Colby Counseling Services (207-859-4490) or the Director of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Program, Emily Schusterbauer (207-859-4093).

Students should be aware that faculty members are considered responsible employees; as such, if you disclose an incident of sexual misconduct to a faculty member, they have an obligation to report it to Colby's Title IX Coordinator. "Disclosure" may include communication in-person, via email/phone/text, or through class assignments.

To learn more about sexual misconduct or report an incident, visit

Religious Holidays

Colby College supports the religious practices of students, faculty, and staff, but we don't always know which people will observe which holidays. Since I need to plan course activities in advance, I need to know in advance, if you need to miss a class or have a deadline adjusted in order to observe a holiday. Please notify me by email at least 14 days in advance of any religious holiday that will affect your ability to participate in this course.

© 2020 Ying Li. Page last modified: 08/23/2020