Introduction to Computer Systems
Summer 2024



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.

Regarding CMSC216 Summer 2024

This class will be on campus, and exams and quizzes need to be taken on campus (they cannot be taken online (no exceptions)). The class format is similar to my other courses: we will record lectures and labs, no pop quizzes, no attendance required, old semester exams available, and Piazza as the class bulletin board.

This course is a 10-week course, which I strongly recommend you do NOT take along with any other summer course or along with an internship. By the way, if you have an internship offer, go for it instead of taking a summer class :).


Prerequisite → C- or better in CMSC132 and MATH 141


Credits → 4


Nelson Padua-Perez, Office: IRB 2210


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 the references below as some students prefer to have a textbook. The following notes (written by a former student/TA) can help you: Lecture Notes.

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
Class Format
Email Policy
Course Topics (Subject to Change)
Programming Assignments (e.g, projects), Exercises, Lab Work 42%
Quizzes 2%
Semester Exams (3), (13%, 16%, 16%) 45%
Final Exam 11%
Grading Concerns

It is your responsibility to submit regrade requests by a specified deadline; no regrade requests will be processed afterwards (even if there are grading errors). If you don't address a grading concern by the specified deadline, we will assume you have reviewed the graded work and are satisfied with your current grade. Deadlines to address any grading concerns will be available at Grading Concerns.

Good Faith Attempt Requirement

Every class project and the debugging quiz have a good faith attempt (GFA) requirement. The good faith attempt represents the minimum functionality you need to implement for a project. For each project you don't satisfy the good faith attempt, your class letter grade will be reduced by at least one letter grade. For example, if you have an A+, and missed one GFA, your class letter grade will be B+. The goal of the GFA is to guarantee you have the basic skills needed for upper level courses. You have until Thursday, Aug 1, 11:55 pm to satisfy any missing GFA.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) Tools Usage

The use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools (e.g., ChatGPT, Bing AI) for the completion of graded work (e.g., programming assignments) is not allowed and represents an academic integrity violation (see information below).

Regarding Posting of Assignments' Solutions/Implementations
Office Hours

Office hours get extremely busy the day before an assignment deadline. Help during office hours is not guaranteed. TAs/instructors cannot stay holding office hours after the office hours period ends because students are waiting for help (this applies to online/virtual office hours). The sooner you start working on a project, the better your chances of getting help. Please, leave the TA room once you have received help and do not use the TA Room as a working area.


You are responsible for creating backups of your work using any approach (make sure your work is not accessible to others). No extensions will be granted if you lose your work and you had no backups.


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 (at least twice a day) we post in the announcements Piazza folder. An oldannouncements Piazza folder will have old announcements. We recommend you check messages everyday around 11:30 am and after 5:00 pm.

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 Course Related Policies.

For Accessibility & Disability (ADS) Students

If you are an ADS ( student (others ignore this information):

ADS students: you are responsible for reserving a space at ADS to take quizzes/exams (we cannot provide that support). Keep in mind ADS has deadlines regarding by when to schedule a day/time to take exams. If your main accommodation is extra time in exams and quizzes, you don't need to meet your instructor (just bring to lecture any form that needs a signature).

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. Nelson takes academic integrity very seriously. If you violate academic integrity rules, he will submit a case to the University, and at least ask for a 0 in the assignment and a reduction of your course grade by two letter grades (e.g., If you have an A+, you will receive a C+). There will be no exceptions. Please carefully read the information below and watch the following video Nelson recorded: Academic Integrity Video.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

Notice of Mandatory Reporting

Notice of mandatory reporting of sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, and stalking: As faculty members, a course instructor is designated as a “Responsible University Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, and stalking to UMD’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy on Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct.

If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of UMD’s confidential resources, such as CARE to Stop Violence (located on the Ground Floor of the Health Center) at 301-741-3442 or the Counseling Center (located at the Shoemaker Building) at 301-314-7651.

You may also seek assistance or supportive measures from UMD’s Title IX Coordinator, Angela Nastase, by calling 301-405-1142, or emailing

To view further information on the above, please visit the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct's website at

If You Are Experiencing Difficulties
Borrowing Computer Equipment

If your computer is experiencing problems, you can borrow one. See for additional information.


All course materials are copyright UMCP, Department of Computer Science © 2024. 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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