Introduction to Computer Systems :: CS 208 :: Fall 2021

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Contact Information

Instructor: Aaron Bauer
Email: awb
Office: Olin 339

Course Information

Course Classroom: Leighton 305

Course Time: 4a (MW 12:30pm – 1:40pm, F 1:10pm – 2:10pm)

Office Hours:
Mondays 10:00am – 12:00pm in Olin 339
Tuesdays 7:30pm – 9:00pm in Olin 310
Wednesdays 4:30pm – 5:30pm in Olin 339
(please come find me in my office or send me an email if you want meet another time!)

Course Staff: Oliver Calder (he/him) will hold lab assistant hours in Olin 310:

The other CS department lab assistants will be available to help you as well. Find the lab assistant schedule here. The lab assistants (besides Oliver) that have taken 208 are David Anderson, Chloe Morscheck, Darryl York, Thomas Zeng, and Rudra Subramanian.

Course Texts: Bryant and O'Hallaron, Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective (CSPP), 3rd edition (required) errata
It is important that you have the 3rd edition of the Bryant and O'Hallaron book, as it contains significant updates from prior editions. There will be assigned readings and practice problems from the CSPP book.

Announcements will be made via Moodle, so watch for those emails.

Programming Environment: This course will include work in C and x86-64 assembly. No prior experience with these languages is expected. Some lab assignments will need to be completed on a Linux machine with gcc and potentially other standard tools installed. The easiest way to do this, from either your own computer or a lab computer, is to use Visual Studio Code to connect to the CS department's mantis server. I will demonstrate how this works in class.

If you want to work locally on your own computer, and it is Mac or Windows, you will need to set up a separate Linux environment. On Windows 10, this is pretty easy, thanks to the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Follow this guide to set it up. On Mac and earlier versions of Windows, you will need to run a Linux virtual machine (VM). You can find instructions for the official CS VM on the Carleton wiki. The CS VM is quite large (11GB download, ~30 GB expanded, courtesy of lots of useful pre-installed stuff). If that's a problem for you, consider using the much smaller Xubuntu VM from Like the CS VM, you will want the free VirtualBox to run the VM. If you run into any problems, please post questions to the Moodle forum.

Other ways to access mantis include via command-line ssh or via JupyterHub at You will need to be on the Carleton VPN to connect to JupyterHub. x2go is an alternative way to work on mantis that doesn't require being on the VPN.

Course Links

Course Description

From the catalog:
Are you curious what's really going on when a computer runs your code? In this course we will demystify the machine and the tools that we use to program it. Our broad survey of how computer systems execute programs, store information, and communicate will focus on the hardware/software interface, including data representation, instruction set architecture, the C programming language, memory management, and the operating system process model.
By the end of this course, you should be able to:

Course Policies

Grading breakdown:

Percentage Letter
≥ 93 A
≥ 90 ≥ A-
≥ 87 ≥ B+
≥ 83 ≥ B
≥ 80 ≥ B-
≥ 77 ≥ C+
≥ 73 ≥ C
≥ 70 ≥ C-
≥ 67 ≥ D+
≥ 60 ≥ D
< 60 F

Course grade derivation: Course grades are computed by the sum of the points earned divided by the maximum total point. Course grade percentages are converted to letters as shown in the accompanying table. The minimum percentage required to achieve a given letter grade may be adjusted downward (only to students’ benefit), but never upward. If your percentage grade satisfies the constraint in the left column, then your letter grade will satisfy the constraint in the right column of the same row. Each student’s grade is determined independently without consideration of other students’ grades.

Late Policy: Deadlines will be given with each assignment. These deadlines are strict. There will be no credit for late work. For the entire term, you have four late days. You are advised to use them conservatively. On group projects you may only use late days if all members of the group have them available, and all members of the group will be charged for each late day used. They must be used in 24-hour (integer) chunks. One or more late days can be activated on an assignment by emailing me before the assignment is due. There is no penalty whatsoever associated with using a late day. This policy may not be the same as in your other classes. You are responsible for understanding it if you choose to submit late work.

A note on inclusivity:

please treat your classmates with kindness and respect, both inside the classroom and out. Classrooms can be vulnerable environments; asking questions and expanding our understanding of new concepts requires us to reveal over and over again that we don't fully know something. It's okay to not know everything immediately! It's not okay to make people feel bad about what they don't know. This can happen even in subtle ways - see this page for a few ideas on how to help create a friendly learning environment. Our individual differences enrich and enhance our understanding of one another and of the world around us. This class welcomes the perspectives of all ethnicities, genders, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities.

Academic Honesty and Collaboration: (adapted from Academic Integrity at MIT)

Writing code is similar to academic writing in that when you use or adapt code developed by someone else as part of your project, you must cite your source. However, instead of quoting or paraphrasing a source, you include an inline comment in the code. These comments not only ensure you are giving proper credit, but help with code understanding and debugging. For these comments, the URL and the date of retrieval are generally sufficient. Add more details if it will help the reader get a clearer understanding of the source.

Labs in this class are intended to be primarily individual efforts or an equal collaboration between you and your partner (on labs that explicitly state they may be done with a partner). You are encouraged to discuss approaches with other students but your code and your write-up must be your own.

You may not use materials produced as course work by other students, whether in this term or previous terms, nor may you provide work for other students to use.

It's good to help other students. But as a general rule, during the time that you are helping another student, your own solution should not be visible, either to you or to them. Make a habit of closing your laptop while you're helping. You should never be in possession of a (paper or electronic) copy of a classmate's code before the due date for the assignment. Another way to articulate this: when getting help, that consultation should be in English and not in code.

It's fine to use material from external sources like StackOverflow, but only with proper attribution, and only if the assignment allows it. In particular, if the assignment says "implement X," then you must create your own X, not reuse one from an external source.

It's also fine to use any code I provide, without need for attribution.

Example 1

Example 2 Example 3 Example 4

Academic Accommodations:

Carleton College is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. The Office of Accessibility Resources (Henry House, 107 Union Street) is the campus office that collaborates with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations. If you have, or think you may have, a disability (e.g., mental health, attentional, learning, autism spectrum disorders, chronic health, traumatic brain injury and concussions, vision, hearing, mobility, or speech impairments), please contact or call Sam Thayer (’10), Director of the Office of Accessibility Resources (x4464), to arrange a confidential discussion regarding equitable access and reasonable accommodations.