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 231 or equivalent
Semester Fall 2023
Date Time, Location

Session A: MWF 10 - 10:50 am, DAVI 308

Session B: MWF 11 - 11:50 am, DAVI 308

Lecture Instructor Ying Li
Office: Davis 111
Office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays: 2:00 - 3:30; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 11:00 - noon
Lab Instructor Stephanie Taylor
Office: Davis 112
Office hours: please find the information via Prof. Taylor's webpage
Evening TAs
Date, Time TA (email)
Sunday, 4:00 - 7:00 pm Matthew Quinn (
Cynthia Zafiris (
Sunday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm Ben Southwick (
Brooke Kulaga (
Sam Cohen (
Monday, 4:00 - 7:00 pm Ryan Mogauro (
Owen Raymond (
Monday, 7:00 - 10:00 pm
Blitzen Wang (
Henry Burdick (
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 Quizzes: 20%
  • Final Exam: 15%
  • Weekly Homework: 10%
  • Class Participation: 10%
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 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 an about 10-minute quiz every Friday. You have 20 minutes to complete the quiz.

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

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

Final Exam

The final exam will be at TBD . The final exam has no make-ups.

Weekly Homework

Homework assignments are assigned usually every Wednesday. The deadline is the following 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 Fall2023 HW# -- Your Name (e.g., CS232 Fall2023 HW1 -- Ying Li). If your subject format is correct, you will automatically receive a homework solution.

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.

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


The course has no required textbook. Lecture contents will be in the lecture notes, and 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. Talk with your peers about the course concepts.

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.

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 the homework questions before reading my homework solutions.

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.

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

How to get help from Ying I'm happy to help if you let me know your questions or concerns. I will be in my office, Davis 111, waiting for you during my office hours. If I'm not in my office during my office hours, please find me in the robotics lab. If my office hours don't work for you, don't hesitate to let me know. I'm happy to schedule a Zoom meeting with you. Email is another good way to ask me for help. I will reply to your email ASAP. If you don't receive my response 24 hours after sending the email, please don't hesitate to "ping" me. There is nothing wrong with your email. It's just that your email may be buried under a large pile of emails, and yours is very important to me.
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) and other specific forms of behavior that violate federal and state laws (Title IX and Title VII, and the Maine Human Rights Act). Such behavior also requires the College to fulfill certain obligations under two other federal laws, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Statistics Act (Clery Act). To learn more about what constitutes sexual misconduct or to report an incident, see:

I am committed to all Colby students feeling safe, accepted, and included in all aspects of their college experiences, including this course. Colby prohibits and will not tolerate sexual misconduct or gender based discrimination of any kind and is obligated, by federal and state laws, to respond to reports and provide resources to students. As your professor I am considered a "responsible employee" which requires me to report incidence of sexual misconduct, dating violence, or harassment to the Title IX Coordinator.

If you wish to access confidential support services, you may contact:

  • The Counseling Center: 207-859-4490
  • The Title IX Confidential Advocate, Emily Schusterbauer: 207-859-4093
  • The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life: 207-859-4272
  • Maines's 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-871-7741
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.

© 2023 Ying Li. Page last modified: 08/31/2023