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The dehydrated VAX-a paradigm for teaching introductory computer engineering

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2 Author(s)
Feldman, James M. ; Dept. of Electr. & Comput. Eng., Northeastern Univ., Boston, MA, USA ; Vai, M.-K.

A method used to take advantage of the computer literacy of incoming students and to motivate and enhance a pair of introductory computer engineering courses is described. To carry electrical engineering students from their initial view of a computer as a terminal which understands Fortran to a solid view of what a computing engine does and how to build one, the authors have found it very effective to include a short, intense section on assembly-language programming. The section emphasizes the connection between high-level language programming constructs and machine architecture. To meet the needs of effective material coverage in a five-week segment of the overall two-quarter course, the enormous VAX instruction set was reduced to what looks rather like a reduced instruction set computer (RISC) instruction set of 16 instructions. The instructions selected force full awareness of the details of machine performance and of dynamic memory access and control. By keeping the tool-set small, there is time to concentrate on data structures, internal representations, connections between the high-level language (HLL) and the assembly language expression thereof, and the hardware structures which must underlie computational activity

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Education, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:33 ,  Issue: 2 )