CS 213: Introduction to Computer Systems, Fall, 2019

Instructor:Peter Dinda (Office Hours: Tuesdays, 3:30-6:30, Mudd 3507 or by appointment)
Teaching Assistant: Brian Suchy (Office Hours: Wednesdays, 12-3, Mudd 3303 (or 3301) or by appointment)
Peer Mentor: Michael Cuevas (Office Hours: Mondays, 4-7, Wilkinson Lab, or by appointment)
Lecture:Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2-3:20pm, Tech L361
Optional Discussion:Wednesdays, 5-, Mudd 3501

Final Exam Review Session: Wednesday, December 11, 5pm, Tech LG52

CS 213 is a required core course in the Computer Science curriculum in both McCormick and Weinberg. It is also a required course for CS minors in both schools. 213 can also be taken for credit within the Computer Engineering curriculum.

This version of CS 213 has an increased focus on (a) low-level hardware aspects, (b) C programming, (c) the Unix system call interface, and (d) threading/parallelism (including a lab). It will be of particular value in preparing for CS 343 (Operating Systems) and similar courses.


We will use Canvas to report grades, but for nothing else. For critical announcements, we will send email to the addresses that CAESAR maintains.

For discussion, we will use Piazza: CS 213 Piazza Site. Directing your questions to Piazza will likely produce the fastest response, and everyone else in the class will also benefit. Piazza is configured to allow anonymous posting.

Accounts, Remote Access, Getting Started with Unix

  • You will have a Linux account on the Wilkinson lab, which is very convenient for working together. Mostly, though, you'll be using those machines as terminals. You should also be able to use NUIT labs near Tech (i.e., in Mudd.)
  • You will also have a Linux account on private servers we have set up. These accounts will be discussed in class.
  • We recommend you use ssh (remote login) or FastX (remote graphical desktop) to access the class servers. We will give you more information about FastX in class and/or via Piazza. You can also use X11 tunneled over SSH. You may also find tmux to be useful.
  • If you haven't used Linux or Unix before:
  • Introduction to the Linux environment on our server (Peter Dinda) (YouTube)
    Note that this video spends some time talking about using VNC for graphical remote access to the servers.
    We highly recommend that you instead use FastX. A URL for FastX is available in Piazza.
  • Introduction to Unix (James Whang and Adel Lahlou) (YouTube)
  • Discussion section will include Unix and C review
  • The book's student site (see below) has additional pointers
  • Handouts

  • Syllabus (pdf)

  • Physics To Logic (pdf)
  • Unix Systems Programming In A Nutshell (pdf)
  • Sockets In A Nutshell (pdf)
  • Concurency (pdf)
  • Parallelism (pdf)
  • Programming Assignments

  • Data Lab (pdf) (Out: 9/24, In: 10/10)
  • Bomb Lab (pdf) (Out: 10/10, In: 10/29 (extended to 10/30)
  • Attack Lab (pdf) (Out: 10/30, In: 11/12)
  • SETI Lab (Parallelism Lab) (pdf) (Out: 11/12, In: 12/5)
  • Homework Assignments

  • HW 1: Integer and Floating Point Number Representations (pdf) (Out: 9/26)
  • HW 2: De-compiling Assembly Code (pdf) (Out: 10/8)
  • HW 3: Memory and Cache (pdf) (Out: 10/22)
    Do problem 1 in preparation for midterm exam!
  • HW 4: Virtual Memory and I/O (pdf) (Out: 11/14)
  • We will make solution sets for these homeworks available. They will not be graded. Nonetheless, we strongly encourage you to do them in preparation for exams.


  • Midterm: Tuesday, October 29, 6pm, Tech M345
    Covers lectures 1-9 and related reading/materials in syllabus
    Midterm Review Session: Monday, October 28, 6pm, Tech L221
  • Final: Friday, December 13, noon, Tech L361
    Covers lectures 10-20, and related reading/materials in syllabus
    Final Review Session: Wednesday, December 11, 5pm, Tech LG52
  • Resources

  • The Book's Student Site
    Contains many useful FAQs, Primers, etc.
  • Lecture slides, code, videos, and other materials for the CMU version of the class
  • Make Introduction (pdf)
  • Gdb commands (pdf)
  • Gdb manual (html)
  • An amazing online compiler
    This lets you easily see the assembly that results from C/C++ code
  • An amazing online disassembler
    This lets you easily decode object code back to assembly
  • The ELF Format (pdf)
  • Comparison with GAS format and Intel's assembler format (text)
  • The Intel Architecture Manuals and the AMD Architecture Manuals
  • Compare and contrast with the beautiful and much mourned DEC Alpha, and with the very much alive and kicking ARM architecture that powers your phone and tablet
  • Overview of the Linux Kernel (pdf) (This is very old, but still a good intro)
  • Cygwin Unix Emulation Environment for Windows