I have many questions about computer hardware architecture, but I'm not sure where I ought to ask them.

I have no experience with electronics.
I have no experience with assembly (modern) or other low-level programming languages.
I am a self-learning computer enthusiast, who wants to know how one exactly works and simulate some.


  • How do computers set a register to a constant value?
  • How is X-bit CPU architecture defined?
  • How is HDDM (not RAM) accessed and addressed?

Got first two answered in Stack Overflow, but people said that they were off-topic and only loosely related to assembly, because guys who do assembly might know the answer. And they gave me links to Super User and Electronics.

Electronics? Any terms like "voltage", "resistance", "transistor" and so on would kill me (logic gates, RAM chips, registers, clock, and similar stuff is OK.)
Super User? It seems more like it, but I saw the questions and they are more about general stuff, not fundamentals.

Maybe someone knows a perfect site for questions like that?

EDIT: I know how one works; I want to improve my knowledge. How have I gotten so far? Minecraft. Those youtube tutorials gave me great fundamentals, but now I want something more complex!

  • 1
    I designed my own computer and I know how it works with that. I want to dig deeper. To improve it. Replace ROM with HDDM (I don't know how it should be addressed and accessed), use carry look-ahead adders instead of ripple-carry adders (don't know how they work) and so on... Aug 20, 2013 at 10:25
  • With minecraft, I was able to study CPUs with no knowledge of electronics, at the level of logic gates. Aug 20, 2013 at 10:34

4 Answers 4


There are currently 3 open sites you'll have to use to answer your questions, and deciding which one is correct for a given question depends as much on how you present the question as it does on the question itself.

Computer Science


This site may be of most use to you. You'll be able to discuss a lot of computer architecture questions and they will be able to answer them. They are more focused on the theory of computer science, and not terribly interested in the hardware aspects of it, but I suspect they'll be great for questions which the next two sites don't want. Try to frame your questions so they can be answered by computer theory explanations, discrete math, logic, algorithms, etc.



You'll find that very low level questions about computer architecture will have an audience here. The problem will be writing the question so it's clearly about how the processor works internally, rather than how to run a piece of code on it. Try to frame your questions so that they can be answered with a schematic, logic gate diagram, soldering iron, or even VHDL/Verilog.

Stack Overflow


As you've found out, there are many experts here that can answer your questions, but they are software people, not hardware people, so if you ask a question you have to present it as one where an answer involving code will solve your problem. If you just want an explanation, you'll have to present code that demonstrates what you need explained, and then ask why it works the way it does. Try to frame your questions so they can be answered by code examples, or explanations of code execution.

  • 1
    That Computer Architecture proposal seems a bit narrow, although I am surprised by the breadth of the example questions. On another note, "Is the 68K still brilliant in design chic?" -- Score of 10, what the hell?
    – user102937
    Jan 15, 2014 at 19:23
  • The Area 51 Computer Architecture proposal failed (I think one proposed only a couple of years earlier also failed) before reaching the commitment phase. There is a C.A. and Operating Systems proposal, but since the Operating Systems proposal is in commitment the CA&OS proposal is likely to fail.
    – user226495
    May 7, 2014 at 16:00

Are you expecting to dig deeper without learning any new terminology? I realise Electrical Engineering and its related terms can sound intimidating, but all of these terms do have definitions, and it does seem to be the way your study is taking you.

Is it possible that you will ask some basic question that will be closed or downvoted? Sure, but you can learn from that too. And as long as you're relatively polite and ready to learn, as long as you don't use your inexperience as an excuse to ignore an answer you do not quite understand, I doubt they will hold that against you too much.

The FAQ includes the line:

Consumer electronics such as media players, cell phones or smart phones, except when designing these products or modifying their electronics for other uses.

They may disagree, but I would say your questions fall under design or modification.

From the front page, emphasis added:

Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for electronics and electrical engineering professionals, students, and enthusiasts.

It is a site for professionals first, but that does not mean there is no place for beginners.

Having read your questions, the first one might be a better fit for Super User, but the second falls directly under (I think, I am also a little out of my depth):

The writing of firmware for bare-metal or RTOS applications.

Which isn't to say that those questions can't be asked on Stack Overflow, but this might be the better place to get a more detailed answer.


I would also recommend browsing through existing questions on the most relevant tags of each website to see how many there are, how they are stated, and how they have been received:


I'd suggest Google, for example https://www.google.com/search?q=hard+drive returns https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/h/harddriv.htm as its first result, and/or there are other results like https://www.explainthatstuff.com/harddrive.html -- it's elementary and maybe raises more questions than it answers, but you could google those too -- especially any jargon.

Or Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_disk_drive

Or possibly a book or text-book, maybe ask a an academic (student or teacher) or a school librarian or public librarian (the book you want might not be on the shelves, therefore asking a librarian).

I guess you'll need about 1000 to 10000 words of explanation with diagrams to begin with -- maybe Q&A on SE isn't the right medium/format for that -- keep SE for more-specific questions.

Incidentally I also searched for "SATA protocol" because maybe "protocol" is the word that's used to refer to "accessed and addressed" on top of the hardware -- you could search too but maybe a video like this one WBNR-FTF2008-SATA-OVERVIEW-VID: In-Depth Training on the SATA Protocol and its Implementation includes the details you were asking about.

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