CMSC216 (Summer 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.
Online vs. Regular (Non-online) Class Versions
This course will be taught online. The exercises, projects,
exams, and quizzes will be similar to the ones you will find in the
non-online version of the course. Regarding the online version of the course:
Quizzes and exams will be take-home assignments with limited
time for submission (e.g., once posted you have 1.5 hours to submit
- Lectures will be asynchronous and lecture videos will be posted before
class lecture time.
For lab/discussion sessions, TAs will hold a video conference
using Zoom on lab times (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 pm → 3:20 pm).
These sessions will be recorded.
During (Office Hours)
a TA can provide assistance via email and/or using Zoom.
Instructors' office hours will be by appointment. Send an email
to the instructor the day before the instructor's posted office hours.
Prerequisite → C- or better in CMSC132
and MATH 141
Credits → 4
You don't need the recommended textbooks to be successful in this course.
We believe we provide all the information you need in lecture and lab.
In addition, there is ton of information about C/systems programming
online. We provide these references as some students prefer to
have a textbook.
Course Topics (Subject to Change)
- Unix Memory Model
- Moving from Java to C
- Pointers and dynamic data structures in C
- Standard Libraries
- Assembly Language
- Process control
- Systems programming
- Program measurement and optimization
- Multithreaded programming with pthreads
- Libraries and linking
- Dynamic memory management
||Semester (Not Final) Exams(2), (10% and 16%)
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.
- Deadlines -
All assignments are due at 11:55 pm and you have until
11:55 pm of the next day to submit your work with
a 12% penalty. You will not receive any credit for
a submission after the late date, except the Good Faith Attempt credit
(additional information below).
- Submit Server -
You need to use the
submit server to submit
you work. We will not accept work submitted otherwise (e.g.,
email, etc.). You need to make sure that your assignment solution works
in the submit server, otherwise you may lose most of the credit.
- Which Assignments Gets Graded -
For programming assignments the one with public/release/secret tests
that scores the highest in the submit server after a late penalty (if any) has been applied.
We only use public/release/secret tests scores to select the
submission to grade. Other assignment requirements (e.g., style, methods you
must implement, allowed classes, etc.) are not considered. We will evaluate
those requirements on the selected submission.
- Good Faith Attempt (GFA) -
You must satisfy a minimum set of requirements (Good Faith Attempt (GFA)) for most class work (usually programming assignments), otherwise you will fail the course (automatic
grade of F). The Good Faith Attempt guarantees you have the skills necessary
for upper-level courses. A good faith attempt for an assignment is worth 0.5 of your
class grade. GFAs are not due at the end of the semester (a common misunderstanding). GFAs requirements and deadline are available at
at CMSC216 GFAs. Additional information about good faith attempts is available
at GFA Information.
- Closed Assignments -
All programming assignments in this course are
to be written individually (unless explicitly
- No Pop Quizzes/Pop Lab Work -
There are no pop quizzes nor pop lab exercises. We will announce in advance (at least one day) if there is any work you need to submit for a grade.
Regarding Posting of Assignments' Solutions/Implementations
Posting of any assignment solution (even after the course is over)
in a publicly available online location (e.g., github, Chegg) is prohibited under
the Code of Academic Integrity (facilitation of academic dishonesty). Any
student responsible for publicly posting assignments' solutions will be reported
to the Office of Student Conduct and risks the sanction of an "XF" in the course.
Posting of your assignments in a private repository where only selected
people (e.g., potential employers) have access is OK.
TA Room/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.
You are responsible for checking announcements we
post in the announcements Piazza folder.
Excused Absence and Academic Accommodations
See the section titled "Attendance and Missed Assignments"
available at Course Related Policies.
See the section titled "Accessibility" available at
Please read this information carefully. We take academic integrity
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.
- 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
- 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).
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.
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.
- Please read the section titled "Academic Integrity" available at
Course Related Policies
and the information available at
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 https://www.cs.umd.edu/classconcern.
All course materials are copyright UMCP, 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.