CMSC216 Fall 2021 - Introduction to Computer Systems


The goal of the course is to convey the fundamental concepts that enable programs to execute on real hardware. Those concepts include how the operating system virtualizes the hardware to provide basic services and abstractions to enable a user program to effectively use the available hardware resources. The course also addresses how different programming constructs and idioms work.

The basic abstraction of a program running as one or more threads of control in a single flat address space (a Unix process) is the key to the course. Emphasizing that abstraction as the underlying model for understanding how a program works, from both the user program and hardware perspective (with the OS in between), run as a theme through all topics in the course. Examples include C pointers (to data and functions), function calls and runtime stack management, dynamic memory management in the heap, and the fork/exec system calls.

Prerequisites: C- or better in CMSC132 and MATH 141
Credits: 4
In-Class Mask Policy

President Pines provided clear expectations to the University about the wearing of masks for students, faculty, and staff. Face coverings over the nose and mouth are required while you are indoors at all times. There are no exceptions when it comes to classrooms, laboratories, and campus offices. Students not wearing a mask will be given a warning and asked to wear one, or will be asked to leave the room immediately. Students who have additional issues with the mask expectation after a first warning will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for failure to comply with a directive of University officials.


Lectures and labs are in-person; recordings will be available. Some office hours will be over Zoom.


You don't need the recommended textbooks to be successful in this course. We believe all the information you need is provided in lecture and lab. In addition, there is ton of online information about C and systems programming. We provide these references as some students prefer to have a textbook.

Title Authors ISBN Type
C Programming, 2nd edition K.N. King 9780393979503 Recommended
Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective, 3rd edition
R.E. Bryant and D. R. O'Hallaron 9780134092669 Recommended
Course Topics (Subject to Change)
30% Projects/Exercises/Lab Work:
P1-P6: 3%, 3.5%, 3.5%, 4.5%, 5%, 4.5%
E1-E6: 0.7%, 0.9%, 1%, 1.2%, 1.2%, 1%
10% Quizzes (Q1-Q4: each 2.5%)
30% Two Midterm Exams (13% and 17%)
30% Final Exam
Grading Concerns

It is your responsibility to submit regrade requests by a specified deadline; no regrade requests will be processed afterwards. Deadlines to address any grading concerns will be available at Grading Concerns.

Reusing Your Solution from a Previous Class
If you are repeating this course and had already implemented a project/exercise we assign this semester, you can reuse your previous implementation if and only if it was not involved in an academic integrity violation. So such reuse of your code is not an academic integrity violation.
Regarding Posting of Assignments' Solutions/Implementations
TA Office Hours

Office hours get extremely busy the day before an assignment deadline and getting help is not guaranteed. Please start your assignments early so you can address any problems during office hours.


You are responsible for creating backups of your work. Use the submit server as a backup tool by submitting often.


We will be using (Piazza) for class communication. You will not be able to register to Piazza yourself. Your instructor will register you using the email address you have in the school system. Posting of any kind of code in Piazza is not allowed.

Class Announcements

You are responsible for checking announcements we post in the announcements Piazza folder.

Excused Absence

See the section titled "Attendance and Missed Assignments" available at Course Related Policies.

Accessibility and Academic Accommodations

See the section titled "Accessibility" available at Course Related Policies. If you have a letter of accommodation from the Office of Accessibility and Disability Services (ADS), see your instructor within the first TWO weeks of the semester. If you think you need an accommodation and you have not yet contacted ADS, do so ASAP because ADS appointments can be hard to get in the middle of the semester.

Academic Integrity

Please read this information carefully. We take academic integrity matters seriously.

  1. Academic dishonesty includes not only cheating, fabrication, and plagiarism, but also includes helping other students commit acts of academic dishonesty by allowing them to obtain copies of your work. All submitted work must be your own. Cases of academic dishonesty will be pursued to the fullest extent possible as stipulated by the Office of Student Conduct.
  2. Situations that often lead to academic integrity violations:
    • A student's friend/roommate shares an assignment's code. Once you provide your code to another student, you are a facilitator, even if you indicate to the student "not to copy-paste" any of it. Actually we had a case in which a student CS degree was revoked for this reason.
    • Students use online resources (github, Chegg, etc.) to find assignments' solutions. The solutions are found by several students and all will be involved in an academic case.
    • Students assume we don't have tools that check for similarities among all students' submissions.
    • Students get desperate and don't want a 0 in the assignment.
    • Students are not aware of the expectations regarding academic integrity.
    • Students assume we don't take academic integrity matters seriously.
    • You should only receive assistance from instructors/TAs. We have seen cases in which the use of tutors have led to academic integrity violations (e.g., tutors looked for assignment's solutions online).
  3. The Office of Student Conduct is responsible for handling academic integrity matters. After a report is submitted by an instructor, the case is evaluated by the office and it could result in an XF grade, degree revocation, or dismissal from the university.
  4. One of the most negative consequences of academic integrity violations is the emotional burden an academic integrity case has on a student. We have seen students extremely distraught as a result of an academic integrity violation. In many cases students chances for recommendations, TA positions, and other opportunities are negatively affected.
  5. Please read the section titled "Academic Integrity" available at Course Related Policies and the information available at Academic Integrity
Class Concerns

If you or your parents have any class concerns, feel free to contact the instructor. If an issue arises with the instructor, report it using the form available at


All course materials are copyright UMD Department of Computer Science © 2021. All rights reserved. Students are permitted to use course materials for their own personal use only. Course materials may not be distributed publicly or provided to others (excepting other students in the course), in any way or format.

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