What is Computer Architecture?

Although the term computer architecture sounds very complicated, its definition is easier than one might think. Computer architecture is a science or a set of rules stating how computer software and hardware are joined together and interact to make a computer work. It not only determines how the computer works but also of which technologies the computer is capable. Computers continue to be a major part of our lives, and computer architects continue to develop new and better programs and technologies.

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What is Computer Architecture?

Computer architecture is a specification describing how hardware and software technologies interact to create a computer platform or system. When we think of the word architecture, we think of building a house or a building. Keeping that same principle in mind, computer architecture involves building a computer and all that goes into a computer system. Computer architecture consists of three main categories.

  • System design – This includes all the hardware parts, such as CPU, data processors, multiprocessors, memory controllers and direct memory access. This part is the actual computer system.
  • Instruction set architecture – The includes the CPU’s functions and capabilities, the CPU’s programming language, data formats, processor register types and instructions used by computer programmers. This part is the software that makes it run, such as Windows or Photoshop or similar programs.
  • Microarchitecture – This defines the data processing and storage element or data paths and how they should be implemented into the instruction set architecture. These might include DVD storage devices or similar devices.

All these parts go together in a certain order and must be developed in a pattern so they will function correctly.

How to Become a Computer Architect

To become a computer architect, often called computer network architect, the candidate must have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, information systems or a related field. The best programs for aspiring computer architects are computer-based fields because they offer students the most hands-on experience in database design or network security, both of which are important for computer architects. These classes also teach the students various technologies used in different networks.

Some students choose to complete an MBA (master’s of business administration) with a focus on information systems. The advantage of this program is that it offers both computer-related and business courses. Even after earning the degree, applicants may be required to have at least five years of experience working with IT systems before being hired as a computer architect. Some computer architects go on to become computer and information systems managers once they’ve obtained sufficient experience.

Career Outlook

As long as we have computers and all the parts that go into a computer system, there will continue to be a demand for computer architects. Computer architects are expected to see an employment growth of 6% between 2016 and 2026 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While cloud computing has decreased the need for computer architects somewhat, they will continue to be in demand as businesses continue to increase their technology needs. The BLS reports that computer architects nationwide earned wages ranging from $58,160 to $162,390 as of May 2017 with the average wage at $107,870.

With computers being more technology-based, computer architecture will continue to be an interesting career for candidates interested in developing these machines.