So there was this question in one of my class tests. It may seem very simple and straight-forward, but I am unable to catch up with its meaning or explanation. I have referred my textbook of COMPUTER ORGANIZATION AND ARCHITECTURE by William Stallings. But that has just got me more confusing.

The definitions according to my textbook are:

Computer architecture refers to those attributes of a system visible to a programmer or, put another way, those attributes that have a direct impact on the logical execution of a program. Computer organization refers to the operational units and their interconnections that realize the architectural specifications.

I even referred to some websites which students at our university, if not the whole country, mainly depend on, but that didn't me help either.

The question is to mark which of the following is/are true:

  1. Computer Organization refers to the design of functional blocks in a computer system.
  2. Computer Organization is responsible to integrate functional blocks in a computer system.
  3. Computer Architecture refers to the design of components and functional blocks in a computer system.
  4. Computer Architecture concerns with the integration of functional blocks to build a computer system.

My marking was 2nd and 3rd option. My explanation about the same was: architecture would include designing of a structure while organization would be, well, the very English definition of how things are organized in a particular manner. I know this may be wrong, hence I am asking you for an explanation regarding which options are correct. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not an expert in this particular topic, but specific terminology like this is often used in different ways in different books and contexts. Does your book give a definition for the terms "computer organization" and "computer architecture"? If so, please edit your question to include these definitions. If not, then I suggest you ask your teacher how you are expected to learn the definition of those terms, given that they aren't listed in the book. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard I really can't depend on my teacher because he would make it disastrously confusing, even 10 times more than the book does it. I will edit my question to include the textbook definitions. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


It seems that the important difference between the terms as used here is that computer architecture is about useful things the system can do for its user (the programmer), and that computer organization is about how to build and connect "units" in order to create such a system.

I will first note that your argument here is not correct: while I agree architecture is about organizing and building things, computer architecture is, according to your book, not about building things. Note that "computer architecture" and "architecture" are not the same. A technical term with a definition is what the definition says it is, no more, no less.1 Any relation the name may have with the English language is irrelevant.2

For example, if I define a particular combination of points and lines to be a caterpillar, then a caterpillar is exactly that and any complaint that a combination of points and lines cannot turn into a butterfly is irrelevant.3

According to what the definitions computer architecture and computer organization say, it seems to me that (assuming "integrating functional blocks" and "interconnecting operational units" are interchangeable) Statements 1 and 2 are true, while 3 and 4 are false. I encourage you to work out the details on your own, using the definitions of the terms involved.

1: Or, as Lewis Carroll wrote:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

2: That said, it certainly is annoying when the name of a term seems to outright contradict its definition (cf. the lines in the poem preceding the quoted line of Mr. Dumpty), and I think the particular names chosen for the definitions in your book are not that good, to be honest. Naming concepts is an art in itself and not many good scientists are also good artists, or even want to be. So many concepts have unfortunate names, but if you read a book that uses those names, you will have to live with it.
3: No, I did not make this up. Someone else beat me to it.


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