CS 105

Computer Systems
Spring 2009


Geoff Kuenning, Olin 1240, x71610, geoff@cs.hmc.edu
Geoff Kuenning
Grutors and TAs (all tutoring is in Beckman B102):
Sonja Bohr (Tutoring hours Tuesdays 7-9 PM)
Dan Fielder (Tutoring hours Tuesdays 10 PM-12 AM)
Simon Yang (Tutoring hours Mondays 7-9 PM)
Alex Yin (Tutoring hours Mondays 9-11 PM)
Administrative Aide:
Joyce Greene, Olin 1258, x18225

Getting Help

If you need help with assignments, send mail to cs105help at cs.hmc.edu. This alias is preferable to mailing the professor directly, since it also goes to the TAs (and it causes the mail to be sorted into a higher-priority box). There is also an AIM alias of the same name, for getting very quick interactive help. Feel free to use it whenever it's live.

Class Meetings

Lecture Times:
Tuesday/Thursday 1:15-2:30 (Jacobs B132)
Lab times:
Wednesday, 11:00-12:15 (Beckman B105)

Course Description

This course provides a programmer's view of how computer systems execute programs, store information, and communicate. It enables students to become more effective programmers, especially in dealing with issues of performance, portability and robustness. It also serves as a foundation for courses on compilers, networks, operating systems, and computer architecture, where a deeper understanding of systems-level issues is required. Topics covered include: machine-level code and its generation by optimizing compilers, performance evaluation and optimization, computer arithmetic, memory organization and management, processes and concurrent computation, and networking technology and protocols.


The text for the course is Computer Systems, A Programmer's Perspective, by Randal E. Bryant and David O'Hallaron, Prentice Hall, 2002, ISBN 0-13-034074-X. If you buy the book from amazon.com via the preceding link, it will generate a commission for the Computer Science Department, which will be placed in the CS student activities fund. The money will directly benefit students, NOT the faculty or the department. Using the link to order any other book will also generate the commission.

There are obviously other sources of books, so do what is best for you.

Other Related Texts

The C Programming Language, Second Edition, by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie, Prentice Hall, 1988, ISBN 0-13-110370-9. You can buy it from amazon.com.

The Joy of C, 3rd Edition, by Lawrence H. Miller and Alexander E. Quilici, Wiley, 1997, ISBN: 0-471-1233-X. You can buy it from Amazon.com.

What is This Course About?

There are many ways to approach the subject of computer systems. This course will investigate computer systems from the viewpoint of the (application) programmer.

The lectures WILL ASSUME that you have read related material from the text and that you thus come to class with questions and some knowledge. We will end many sections from the book with a quiz. These quizzes are worth points and have no makeup (except for legitimate reasons). Thus, consistently coming to class unprepared will be reflected negatively in your grade no matter how you do on the other coursework.

Requirements and Grades

We have made great efforts to encourage you to submit material on time. Make sure to read the late policy. The relative weighting scheme will be as follows:

Participation: 5%
Quizzes: 5%
Labs: 20%
Tests: 70%

Don't be misled by the fact that labs represent a lower fraction of your grade. The labs are REQUIRED to get a passing grade in the course.


The homework given in this course is designed to ensure that you have a full grasp of the concepts presented in the text. We will go over the homework problems in class. Student groups, picked randomly, will present solutions. Our goal is to get you to understand and to absorb the major concepts and technologies presented in the course.


The laboratory exercises in this course are fun and challenging. Lab time will be used to get you started on the various experiments. We DO NOT intend you to complete the labs during the lab time, but will establish some ground rules on the time you should spend on each lab. The Web pages for the labs will be updated as the semester progresses.

We use pair programming for all the labs. BE AWARE that if you let your lab partner do most of the work, you will score poorly on exams and thus in the class. Be sure to participate fully in the labs, as that is where a lot of the learning takes place.


There will be two tests, a midterm and a final. The tests come from the class lecture material. Historically, the tests have been the major differentiator in assigning grades because the labs are usually finished by all teams. However, the grade is not determined solely by tests, and it's quite common for the quiz and lab grades to have a visible effect on the final result.


Quizzes will be given after class presentation of major subject areas. The quizzes will be unannounced.

Collaboration Policy

Collaboration is encouraged. This means that you may discuss approaches to solving problems with anyone in the class, including the professor and the graders. However, COPYING solutions from any source (person or book) is DISALLOWED. All students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the Harvey Mudd Honor Code. If you have any questions about what is appropriate or inappropriate collaboration, please talk to me.

The copying of code applies to everything except for the Labs. In some Labs we tell you to go get a data structure from a particular source. It is really really stupid to ignore this advice....

Web Page

Obviously, you should check the Web page regularly. Your primary source of timely information is the class calendar. Changes to the calendar page will NOT be announced via e-mail; it is your responsibility to keep an eye on it.

Major changes to other Web pages will be announced to the class mailing list.

List of Topics

The following is a rough outline of the topics we will be covering:

© 2009, Geoff Kuenning

This page is maintained by Geoff Kuenning.