Computers and Electronics

The details
Essex Pathways
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Foundation/Year Zero: Level 3
Thursday 03 October 2019
Friday 26 June 2020
11 September 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC G403 Computer Science (Including Foundation Year),
BENGGH46 Computers with Electronics (Including Foundation Year),
BENGH61P Electronic Engineering (Including Foundation Year),
BENGHP41 Communications Engineering (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

This module considers on a coherent basis two fundamental areas of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. This module provides an introduction to the fundamental principles in Computer Science: basic architecture and general components of digital computer systems. This module looks at general operating system functionality and gives some hands-on experience with a modern Unix/Linux based operating system. Computer and communication networks are also studied as part of this module, as well as an overview of computer and network security.

This module also covers material for Electronic Engineering: starting with digital systems design - digital logic, logic gates, and Boolean algebra. This module then provides an introduction to fundamental electronics: a study of basic electronic circuits, and the common circuit laws and theorems. A computer based electronics simulator will be used for building and testing digital logic circuits and simple electronic circuits.

Module aims

To introduce students to the fundamental knowledge of computer science and electronic engineering.

To familiarise students with computer system architectures and components, and the general concepts of operating systems and operating system functions.

To introduce students to the subject of digital logic using Boolean algebra and Truth tables.

To introduce students to some of the fundamental principles of electronics and simple electronic circuits.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

1. Describe the basic architecture, components, and operating system functionality of a modern digital computer system.

2. Demonstrate correct usage of Unix commands through a command line interface.

3. Explain various computer network concepts and terminologies; for example, topology, connection mechanisms, and the OSI protocol stack.

4. Demonstrate an ability to work with different number representations and perform conversions between decimal, binary, octal, and hexadecimal.

5. State the output from the standard logic gates, and design simple digital logic circuits through the use of Truth Tables, and Boolean Algebra simplifications.

6. Identify electronic circuit components and analyse schematic diagrams; define the common circuit laws and theorems (in particular Ohm's Law and Kirchhoff's Laws), and apply these to a given problem.

Module information


1. General computer technology, Computer history, and Computer architecture (Topics include: Computing from the mechanical era, through the early electronic era, and up to the current modern era of computing. An overview of computer components. Computer and CPU architectures.)
2. Input / Output (Topics include: How I/O devices communicate with the CPU and main memory. A study of a serial I/O protocol: RS-232).
3. Operating Systems (Topics include: Definitions and descriptions of different OS's. The high and low level responsibilities of OS's. Some examples of current modern OS's.)
4. Unix/Linux (Topics include: A beginner's introduction to Unix and Linux. A hands-on exercise with a Linux OS. A Tutorial in Unix scripting.)
5. Computer and Communication networks (Topics include: Types of networks - topologies and connection mechanisms. Network protocols and the OSI protocol stack, focussing mainly on IP and TCP.)
6. Data Compression (Topics include: Run-length encoding. Lossless and Lossy compression methods on different data types.)
7. Computer Security and Encryption (Topics include: An overview of general computer and network security. Methods of access control and authentication. Ensuring data integrity. Single key and dual key encryption.)
8. Number representation (Topics include: Working in Binary, Octal, and Hexadecimal. Converting numbers between Decimal, Binary, Octal, and Hexadecimal. Handling negative numbers in binary - One's and Two's complement.)
9. Digital logic (Topics include: Boolean algebra and simplification of Boolean algebra expressions. Logic gates and schematic diagrams.
10. Computer Simulation (Topics include: A tutorial of NI Multisim - a powerful computer software package for designing, creating, testing, and analysing, analogue and digital electronic circuits.)
11. Fundamental SI Units (Topics include: A historical perspective of electricity and electronics. The International Standard of Units. The metric system.)
12. Circuit components (Topics include: Symbols and basic schematic diagrams. Resistance, Current, and Voltage. Ohm's Law. Kirchhoff's Laws. Resistors in series and in parallel.)
13. Capacitors (Topics include: Capacitance. Capacitors in DC circuits in series and in parallel. Resistor-Capacitor circuits).

Formative assessment
In addition to various class exercises throughout the term there will be:
A practise task before Lab Report 1
Unix file and directory structure manipulation exercise in the first term
Number representation and conversion exercises in the first term
A practise progress test in Week 10
Digital logic circuit simplification exercises using Boolean algebra in the second term
A practise experiment before Lab Report 2

Summative assessment
Coursework is comprised of:
Two lab reports (30% and 40%)
One progress test (30%).

3:00 hour exam during Summer Examination period

Reassessment strategy
Failed Exam:
Resit the exam which is re-aggregated with existing coursework mark to create a new module aggregate.

Failed Coursework:
Resubmit a piece of coursework (2,200 words) which is re-aggregated with existing exam mark to create a new module aggregate. The reassessment task will replace the coursework component and will enable the relevant learning outcomes to be met.

Failed Exam and Coursework:
Resit the exam and resubmit one piece of coursework (2,200 words) to be aggregated to create a new module aggregate.

Learning and teaching methods

The module is delivered by 4 hours of lectures and laboratory sessions per week, usually split 2-hour lecture and 2-hour laboratory, delivered in two 2-hour sessions.
Lectures are delivered with the assistance of computerised presentation slides and example programs to demonstrate the topics each week.
Laboratory sessions will consist of exercises and tasks closely related to the lecture topics each week.
Laboratory sessions will take place in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering to make use of the Unix based operating system and electronics simulation software.
Students can access all of the module material using the University online Moodle site.


  • Floyd, Thomas L.; Buchla, David M. (2010) Electronics Fundamentals: Circuits, Devices, and Applications: Pearson.
  • Tanenbaum, Andrew S.; Austin, Todd. (©2013) Structured computer organization, Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
  • Floyd, Thomas L. (2015) Digital Fundamentals: Pearson.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   IA119 Progress Test     30% 
Coursework   IA119 Lab Report 1   08/01/2020  30% 
Coursework   IA119 Lab Report 2  01/04/2020  40% 
Exam  180 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Ian Mothersole, email: imothe@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Ian Mothersole
Kate Smith (catsmith@essex.ac.uk or 01206 874564)



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 268 hours, 42 (15.7%) hours available to students:
226 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Pathways

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