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Back to Build a Modern Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris (Project-Centered Course)

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Build a Modern Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris (Project-Centered Course) by Hebrew University of Jerusalem

3,338 ratings

About the Course

What you’ll achieve: In this project-centered course* you will build a modern computer system, from the ground up. We’ll divide this fascinating journey into six hands-on projects that will take you from constructing elementary logic gates all the way through creating a fully functioning general purpose computer. In the process, you will learn - in the most direct and constructive way - how computers work, and how they are designed. What you’ll need: This is a self-contained course: all the knowledge necessary to succeed in the course and build the computer system will be given as part of the learning experience. Therefore, we assume no previous computer science or engineering knowledge, and all learners are welcome aboard. You will need no physical materials, since you will build the computer on your own PC, using a software-based hardware simulator, just like real computers are designed by computer engineers in the field. The hardware simulator, as well as other software tools, will be supplied freely after you enroll in the course. Course format: The course consists of six modules, each comprising a series of video lectures, and a project. You will need about 2-3 hours to watch each module's lectures, and about 5-10 hours to complete each one of the six projects. The course can be completed in six weeks, but you are welcome to take it at your own pace. You can watch a TED talk about this course by Googling "nand2tetris TED talk". *About Project-Centered Courses: Project-centered courses are designed to help you complete a personally meaningful real-world project, with your instructor and a community of learners with similar goals providing guidance and suggestions along the way. By actively applying new concepts as you learn, you’ll master the course content more efficiently; you’ll also get a head start on using the skills you gain to make positive changes in your life and career. When you complete the course, you’ll have a finished project that you’ll be proud to use and share....

Top reviews


Jun 13, 2021

Undeniably one of the best computer science courses. The advertising isn't false! This course permanently changed my perspective on hardware and software along with the relationship between the two...


May 22, 2021

Thanks to the instructors for bringing forth such an amazing course. The way the course is strucured makes it very interesting and easy to learn. Loved and enjoyed the course and learnt a lot from it

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51 - 75 of 1,013 Reviews for Build a Modern Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris (Project-Centered Course)

By Gabriel L

Jan 27, 2021

Fan-freaking-tastic course! Everything is explained in a very thorough, simple, and easy to understand manner. The course authors are great teachers and you cannot notice how much effort they put into making this an accessible, yet informative course. The tools they provide are completely free and of pedagogic design; the projects are interesting and are a ton of fun, everything about the course is awesome. Highly recommended to anybody who has an interest in programming or how computers work, as it does an amazing job in giving you a run-down of how everything operates. However, do not expect high-level and advanced design techniques as this course is breadth over depth. If you want something of that sort, you will need to look for a book or another course that focuses solely on the topic you want.

By Pranav B

May 29, 2020

Quoting Richard Feynman - " What I cannot create, I do not understand"

I have done 3 years of computer science in university. This has been better than most of those courses! Don't think twice about taking this course, definitely go for it. It begins from the very basics - building simple chips like AND, OR gates and slowly putting these parts together into a CPU, memory (ROM,RAM) and finally building an assembler. The course was indeed very satisfying. It summed up most things I've learned in college and putting it all together really gives you a feel of how 'real' it is. I have no complaints. The instructors are awesome. Unlike a few courses around here, answers aren't spoon-fed to learners. You will definitely enjoy building these components and watching them work. What are you waiting for?

By Zach W

Jul 22, 2017

This course is incredibly interesting, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who's remotely interested in computers and technology (which must be the case if you're reading this!). I've been programming for a while and have built a rudimentary GameBoy emulator, so I had some level of familiarity with assembly and machine language going in to this course; but despite all this, the raw mechanics of how a computer works on a logic-gate level were basically indistinguishable from magic to me prior to taking this course.

The course covers an impressively diverse array of topics, which serves not only to keep the course consistently fresh and engaging, but also to give the student solid foundations in many different areas on which they can later choose to build on (I know I will be).

By Christopher H D

Aug 13, 2016

This course is an outstanding survey from logic gates through assembler. At the end you will have the gate level design of an elementary CPU and RAM, and the mysteries of machine code will be revealed. I am an older learner returning to computer science after a twenty-year absence. I had previously been exposed to this material, so I was refreshing my knowledge. It took me about 5-6 hours per week. If someone is brand new to these concepts, the syllabus may move a bit fast for them, and they should expect to spend some additional time to absorb the material. It is an outstanding survey course that together with part II will help you understand how all the hardware and software layers of a computer system fit together. I recommend this course without reservation.

By Pushkar D

Nov 12, 2017

I can't praise this course enough! It transforms your working knowledge of computer systems into a clear picture of what is happening behind the scenes. In this part 1 of the course, I learnt how basic gates are used to make more complex chips such as ALU, CPU and Memory. This helped me understand the application of Boolean Algebra in computer science. Next, I understood how instructions are executed on the computer and that computer architecture design is quite complex (although a simple one is presented here). Week 5 assignment is the toughest, in my opinion. Finally, the course ended with an assignment to write an assembler (something I have been wanting to do at least once in my life i.e writing translators). The satisfaction level for this course is a 10/10.

By Gregory G

Aug 11, 2021

Difficulty: Could be skewed but the course doesn't strictly require any programming knowledge or any really complicated solutions. I used plenty of accumulated Java knowledge on the last assignment but there's also a simpler option where you don't have to program.

Selection of material: The lecturers went to the lengths to create a custom computer design with its own assembly language, just for educational purposes, so it's not too complex. At the same time you learn to build a computer from the ground up, from combining nand gates to using that to design the CPU and memory, to using those to read programs written in Hack (the assembly language for this course). As advertised.

Pace: Manageable. I worked about an hour a day, with more when assignments got harder.

By Michael D

Apr 9, 2018

While I'm already a software engineer and have taken introductory EE courses, I have never gotten the full picture of how software is interacting with the hardware. When you code, you usually think of branching as choosing to execute one segment of code or another. While this is true for a lot of jump executions, it was also really interesting to see how the hardware is constantly doing multiple execution paths at the same time when working with registers/ram addresses. It starts to paint a better picture of the under-the-hood performance and optimization, and gives an idea of how advanced CPU instructions like SSE might work. All of this is done in such an approachable way in this course. I feel like assembly is more approachable to me now, as well.

By daniel a m

Nov 29, 2019

This is an amazing course. You really get to build a (virtual) computer by yourself and step-by-step. They give you the necesary guidance, but still leave you room to think by yourself when completing each step of the project. It is amazing how they manage to strike this delicate balance.

The conferences and slide presentations are really good, and also the software they provide.

The computer you will build is a masterpiece of simplicity, yet a full-functioning universal computer. Its simplicity allows you to really understand the internal workings of any computer and truly grasp the real power of Boolean logic. Truly awesome.

And the whole project of building this computer develops like a game: It´s realluy fun.

I loved this course.

By Nat S

Apr 14, 2019

Wow. What can I say except for the fact that this course was fantastic. I completed all 6 weeks as an auditor, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although the design is simple compared to modern day computers, I feel like I have a solid foundation of how the hardware layer of a computer works and interacts. The difficulty level is about right and assumes no knowledge of programming - there is a no programming option for the final week project. I would recommend doing the programming version though. It's a great, rewarding challenge.

Overall, the quality of the lecturing, as well as the tools provided, and the clear passion for the subject from Professors Schocken and Nisan make this a must take course for everyone interested in computers.

By Muthukumar U

Jun 1, 2020

One of the Most Amazing & Admiring Courses in Computer Science that raises a Curtain to take everyone " A Great Journey Inward into the Computer Science". I always had a Zeal to learn how computer works and keen about what happens when a "Hello World" Program gets executed. This Course "Build a Modern Computer from First Principles" is a feast to the all enthusiasts to understand "Computer Architecture" in Practical. Infact , I am Bowing to the Professors "Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan" for their Outstanding Efforts in crafting this Wonderful Course and Practical Tools and aspiring Everyone and Teaching Complex things at ease. I believe you will too ...

Kitos Coursera !!!! for being Wonderful for such Maverick Courses.

By Lorraine F

Dec 15, 2020

I am up to the last project in this course, so I am almost done. I found the projects challenging but so interesting that I just kept at it until I achieved my projects worked. They provide enough tools and test cases to ensure your project will pass when it gets submitted for grading. The lectures provided a lot of information and guidance, so much so, you don't need the book they recommend. I did buy the book, but found that the course notes had everything I needed. I would recommend this course for anyone who wants to virtually build a computer from one simple gate -> the NAND gate...from there you build everything you need. The computer is not a shabby one. You get to see Pong working and build Tetris!!!

By Christian R

Jul 11, 2017

Very interesting and enjoyable course. It's pretty neat to go from a NAND gate all the way to an ALU and a CPU.

One word of caution: The course says that no prior programming experience is required. And this is true. *But*, if you've never taken a programming course and never taken a math/logic course that covers boolean logic and such, you might struggle a bit. This is not to say it's overly hard, but without this type of background, expect to spend more time on the basics. (This is said from the point of view of someone with this type of background, and how I imagined people without it would do.)

If you have a programming background, or have an interest/background in electronics, you should have no problem.

By Tiago L

Mar 29, 2018

From all courses that I took online, this is by far the best.

While this is a subject which I particularly like, this is not the only factor for me to rate this course very high. The instructors are truly educated in the subject, and from the very first lectures it is clear that they put a lot of effort and time in the preparation of this course.

This course opened my mind to the organization of computers, and from here, I was able to understand and do further research on other architectures and projects.

In all, I strongly suggest that you take the time, put in the effort, and attend this course. It will dramatically increase your understanding of computer architecture.

By Artem S

Feb 3, 2019

For anyone who's hesitating about this course - you should absolutely take it !

As a working developer in web-development industry without specialized education, I always felt that i missed some core concepts of the computer architecture and i didn't know where should i start. Thanks god, i found this course

I should say this course opened my eyes on a lot of things going on inside the computer, now i understand what i do better and produce better results at my day-to-day job.

During 2 month of studying this course, that was a wonderful journey, thanks to the best teachers Professor Shimon and Noam, thank you both for investing your efforts and time in this course!

By Jon A

May 30, 2017

A truly wonderful course to learn how computers *actually* work from the fundamental level of digital logic circuits all the way up to assembly language, CPUs and RAM. You get to design your own circuits and programs, and test your designs using a wonderful set of free tools developed especially for this course. I would recommended getting the textbook and studying the lecture notes in addition to the video lectures. This course is challenging but oh so rewarding! It is truly an accomplishment when you can figure out how to get something to work! It almost feels like you're actually building your computer system. I LOVE this class. Looking forward to Part II :)

By Андрей Ф

May 22, 2021

This course is awesome! It's the best course in my life and I can't recommend it enough! Brilliant lectors, course is smartly structured and organized. I passed the course in one breathe and now understand how my laptop works from the lowest level and now I know, that assembly language is not even so close difficult as it may seem for a frontend developer like me, rather a little bit tiring to write code in it. I think the course might be especially interesting for developers who are working exclusively with high-level languages and can't imagine how a processor physically executes their code. Big thanks to Noam Nisan and Shimon Schocken who created this course!

By Nenad L

Jul 11, 2017

I have bought the book and worked it along this course for the Part 1. Part 2 wasn't available, so I continued working the book and managed to create my own language, compiler (both layers) and quasi-OS.

The amount of supporting facilities is unbelievable: several simulators, code validators, visualisation aids describing how data flows through the machine, etc...

The authors are very down-to-earth lecturers who were able to create a simple yet powerful machine, explain to the audience and then make the audience recreate that very same machine themselves.

I can freely say that this course, paired with the book, moved my understanding of computers the next level.

By Dmitry O

May 26, 2017

It is the great course that explains how to build a computer starting from one simple logic element. Although in Institute, I learned how to create the combination and the sequential logic elements such as Mux, Dmux, ALU, Flip-Flop, Memory and other, and I self-learned how to program in assembler for processors kr580vm80 (i8080), Z80, x86, PIC and AVR controllers I did not know how to build the CPU and entire computer at all. Of course, this knowledge helped me passed the course faster than in six weeks, but after finishing it I have in my mind the entire picture of creating the computer. I thank the authors of the course for their great work.

By Kgotso K

Mar 1, 2019

No other course could give me a basic understanding of computer architecture in just 6 weeks. This is one of the most creative computer science classes mainly because of the teaching approach. The faculty's combination of hands on assignments and software aids make this the easiest way to demystify the black box that are computers. The only challenge with the course is that the workload is heavy for newbie programmers and the student is advised to seek out YouTube videos to see real circuits in action. Even with the weaknesses in course design, I would rate this a 5 star and highly recommend it to those that can give 10-20 hours a week.

By Артем М

Mar 24, 2022

It is a nice course to get the "feeling" of how computers actually work. It doesn't provide you with much in-depth knowledge of computer architecture (most of the things in this course are greatly simplified), but it does provide you with a substantial understanding of the underlying processes and, which I think is far more important, it gives a very thorough understanding of what a powerful tool abstraction is and how it is used in computer design.

All in all, I think that this course does not give a lot of practical knowledge, but it does give intuitive understanding, which is excellent in building your Computer Science foundation.

By William C

Jan 31, 2022

Overall a great course. Only a couple things were not optimal:

1) The HDL language should have some sort of looping syntax. Without that kind of syntax, one of the projects was very silly at times (just repeating the same lines over and over when we were building repetitive chip parts).

2) The CPU chip should have been broken down into smaller, modular/testable components. There was way too much going on there for a single chip, which made it very difficult to test. However, the instructors explicitly tell you not to try to break it down into smaller components, which to me was a violation of proper software design / modularity.

By Deleted A

Jul 25, 2020

This course is, in my opinion, of immense value for developers like me who are too busy learning how to use the latest commercial high-level languages and framework buzzwords. You end up forgetting about fundamentals once you're on the market trying to make a buck. If you are like me, someone who likes understanding how things work under the hood, and have special admiration for developers from the past and those who are capable of writing the tools we developers use (like compilers, OSs, programming languages, etc), then this course is for you. I already feel I'm a better developer now, and I've only done the 1st course ;)

By Frank G

Jan 25, 2017

First Class Systems-approach Introduction to Computing! Together with the corresponding Textbook "Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles" published by MIT Press, this is probably THE BEST and most comprehensive course and Intro available - for both self-educated and degree-educated Knowledge-Seekers - into the vast subject of Computer-Science/Electrical-Engineering. Very practical and hands-on, but still conveying the relevant theory. A great second Computer-Science course, e.g after the traditional "Introduction to Computer Science" and before a dedicated Algorithms module.

By Jason W

Mar 12, 2021

I recommend this course to anyone who would like to become familiar with computer science concepts related to the low-level operations of a computer. A particularly useful case is for any high-level programmer who may want to understand how hardware executes instructions. The assignments are well designed to enhance comprehension of the course's material. For me personally, I do feel that the information presented about how much time to expect to devote to the assignments was too low of an estimate for about 3 of the assignments. Overall, this course was excellent, especially considering its value and its cost.

By Biruk S

Nov 26, 2020

Such an excellent course. I'm a second year software engineering student and wondered a lot about how things work under the hood. Building this well designed computer with a great suite of free software to aid makes this course the best one I've taken so far. I didn't like the last project as much since it didn't seem like I got real insight on how an assembler is built (from my search it looks like it's exhausting work and I can see why they avoided it). All together 100% would recommend to anyone who's curious about computers and would like to explore it in a fun way. Thanks for this wonderful course!!