CS 213: Introduction to Computer Systems, Fall, 2022

Instructors:Peter Dinda
Teaching Assistant: Matthew von Allmen
Peer Mentors: Elena Fabian
Thomas Filipiuk
Alex Kang
Mitchell Lai
Liam Patterson
Santi Roches
Molly Schneck
Evan Waite
Lecture:Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:20pm, Annenberg G15
Optional Discussion: Mondays, 12pm

Office hours and locations are available on the shared calendar announced in Piazza, Canvas, and email.

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.

There are currently 87 students enrolled.


We will use Canvas to report grades, and to make access to any Zoom sessions or recordings more straightforward, but for nothing else. For critical announcements, we will send email to the addresses that CAESAR maintains.

For discussions, we will use Piazza. 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 in the CS department. This will give you remote access to a range of machines, the most important of which are the servers on which the class runs. We will say more in lecture.
  • 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. McIT has more info about FastX in our environment. You can also use X11 tunneled over SSH. You may also find tmux to be useful when working with partners. It allows multiple people to share the same session.
  • If you haven't used Linux or Unix before:
  • Connecting to our class servers using ssh, FastX, X11, etc (Peter Dinda)
  • General intro to Unix (Peter Dinda)
    Note that this video spends some time talking about using VNC for graphical remote access to the servers. You can ignore this. FastX or X11 is what you want now.

  • Crash Course on Unix and Systems Tools (Souradip Ghosh) (shared privately)
  • 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: 9/20, In: 10/6)
  • Bomb Lab (pdf) (Out: 10/6, In: 10/27 (extended))
  • Attack Lab (pdf) (Out: 10/27, In: 11/9 (extended))
  • SETI Lab (Parallelism Lab) (pdf) (Out: 11/10, In: 12/1)
  • Homework Assignments

  • HW 1: Integer and Floating Point Number Representations (pdf) (Out: 9/22, In: 10/4)
  • HW 2: De-compiling Assembly Code (pdf) (Out: 10/4, In: 10/19 (extended))
  • HW 3: Memory and Cache (pdf) (Out: 10/22, In: 11/11 (extended))
  • HW 4: Virtual Memory and I/O (pdf) (Out: 11/10, In: 12/1)
  • We will make solution sets for these homeworks available. Homeworks are important preparation for exams.


  • Midterm: 2 hours on 10/24
    Covers lectures 1-9 and related reading/materials in syllabus
    Midterm Review Session: Friday, 10/21, 11am, 555 Clark B01 and zoom (will be recorded)
  • Final: 2 hours on 12/5 (formal time is 12-2, and we will be available in our classroom then)
    Covers lectures 10-20, and related reading/materials in syllabus
    Final Review Session: Friday, 12/2, 11am, Mudd 3514 and zoom (will be rcorded)
  • 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, the very much alive and kicking ARM architecture that powers your phone, tablet, or M1+ Mac, and the up-and-coming open source RISC-V architecture.
  • Overview of the Linux Kernel (pdf) (This is very old, but still a good intro)
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux
  • Cygwin Unix Emulation Environment for Windows
  • Last modified: Thu Nov 11 16:46:49 CST 2021