Computer Systems has a reputation for being where students who didn’t make it into Software go. And maybe it should. Lots of people end up in that situation. But don’t disregard Computer Systems because of that. Computer Systems is a very cool specialisation if you enjoy programming but want the tangibility of holding your projects in your hand. I chose Computer Systems because I enjoyed Software but *loved* ELECTENG 101.
This article is me doing a reprise of the excellent work written by 2019 blogger: Angella. I have never met her (big fan though) but she is an excellent writer, so you should definitely go read her article. Just keep in mind most of the information about courses is no longer relevant. Please go read it!
If you are reading this, you are (hopefully) considering Computer Systems as a specialisation. Good! Computer Systems is an excellent specialisation for anyone wanting to work in the technology industry. It gives you an outstanding balance between Electronics and Software while also providing you with several specialised pathways, including Digital Systems Design (work for Intel woo!), Cybersecurity (hacker man), Embedded Systems (satellites, robots, fridges!) and Software (boo!). I’ll waffle about a few of these now so you can get a better idea but do some of your own research! There are lots of great youtube videos that might inspire you to do Computer Systems.
Digital Systems Design is designing with those OR and AND logic gates from ELECTENG 101. You will learn a lot about this stuff in COMPSYS 201 if you are in Software, Electrical or Computer Systems. Then hopefully, we will learn to apply it in COMPSYS 305 (Digital Systems Design) when we learn VHDL (how you do Digital Systems Design). But this is a fascinating area of Computer Systems. This is what people at Intel or AMD do to build the microprocessors that power our modern life.
Embedded Systems is the biggest thing we have done in Computer Systems so far. COMPSYS 201 and ELECTENG/COMPSYS 201 both have you using AVR GCC C (the C language you use in ENGGEN 131 extended to make programming AVR microcontrollers easier). This is how we are introduced to programming for Embedded Systems. Embedded Systems are essentially those systems/devices/computers that have limited resources. That means programming for lots of things! Bluetooth speakers, traffic lights, cars, all of these have embedded systems. If you are interested in programming, but with a more practical twist + electronics, Computer Systems is the way to go.
Software jobs are also a genuine possibility for Computer Systems engineers (and as you probably heard, most Computer Systems students end up in Software roles). Jobs that require knowledge of low-level concepts such as assembly language, memory management and some Digital Systems Design stuff are common and are perfect for Computer Systems students! Things that require high performance but aren’t necessarily “Embedded Systems” such as “supercomputing”, networking or anything related to electronics (i.e. firmware roles) are exciting.
Of course, Computer Systems students can also get some significant, more typical software roles, so if your GPA is not looking up to the scary Software 9.0, consider Computer Systems. You will have to enjoy ELECTENG 101 (at least a little) but know that it does get better! You will not just be analyzing circuits forever, I promise.
If you are interested in some Computer Systems graduates to see what they are up to at the moment, stalk them on LinkedIn or look up some names like Dr Hammond Pierce, Dr Benjamin Tan. I stole both of these names from the bottom of this page on the ELECTENG/COMPSYS 209 website, where you can watch some great interviews with Computer Systems and Electrical people. Also, don’t think you *have* to do a doctorate to get an excellent job with Computer Systems. There are UoA Computer Systems graduates at TradeMe and Apple who have not done a PhD.
You can do lots of things with Computer Systems. And lots of people from the University of Auckland have gone on to do great things. You can too! Please consider Computer Systems. We could use you.
Check out my cool spacer! 👀 Next time, in my FINAL blog post, I will reveal the great secrets of Computer Systems Semester Two. Hopeful Computer Systems students leave a comment below to confirm your existence!