Introduction to Computing Systems (Fall 2020)

Welcome to CS 24! We’re super excited to have you here this term!


Due Soon


Wellness and Inclusion

It is very important to us that you succeed in CS 24. We provide many extra resources to help you. Adam and the TAs hold many office hours, and we have a message board called campuswire.

It is also very important to us that you maintain your mental wellness throughout the course. A few points are not worth losing sleep over. Everyone on the course staff is available to chat, and you can always attend office hours for a non-academic conversation if necessary. You can also visit the counseling center if you find you need help beyond the course staff. If you have a temporary health condition or permanent disability (either mental health or physical health related), you should contact accessibility services if you have not already. Additionally, if there is something we can do to make your experience better, please let us know.

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are all core values of this course. All participants in this course must be treated with respect by other members of the community in accordance with the honor code. If you feel unwelcome or unsafe in any way, no matter how minor, we encourage you to talk to Adam or one of the Deans. We view these sorts of honor code violations as completely unacceptable, and we take them very seriously.

Course Staff


Book an appointment!
Annenberg 115
(626) 395-1765

Teaching Assistants

Caleb Sander
Jeffrey Ma
Anya Vinogradsky
Anthony Pineci
Chris Wang
Gianluca Delgado
Jen Yu
Jennifer Sun
Jake Will
Luka Valencic
Meena Hari
Rashida Hakim
Thai Khong


The following is a list of handouts that you might find helpful throughout the course. We’ve categorized them by when they are useful.


Syllabus – an overview of the course and administrative information

Collaboration Policy – the course collaboration policy

Course Policies & Guidelines – an overview how the course will work since we’re online

Code Quality Guidelines – a list of style requirements for the projects

Tools of the Trade – tutorials for tools that you will need to use in this course

Manual Pages – documentation for relevant standard C functions

Weeks 2 & 3

x86-64 Reference – a description of relevant instructions and ABIs for x86-64


L00 Wed, Sep 30 Perspectives on Computing Systems
What is this course about? How will grading work? What will the notes look like? What is hexadecimal and why do I care? How do computers represent information?
L01 Fri, Oct 02 Memory [ pdf ]
What does an abstraction for memory look like? Give me the details!
L02 Mon, Oct 05 Fixed-Width Integers [ pdf ]
How do computers represent integers? What about negative numbers? How does this affect me as a programmer?
DS 4.1-4.7
Project00 (disk) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Oct 05
L03 Wed, Oct 07 x86-64 Introduction [ pdf ]
What is x86-64? Why should I care about assembly? How can I understand basic assembly programs and instructions such as mov and others?
DS 7.1-7.3
L04 Fri, Oct 09 x86-64 Conditionals [ pdf ]
How does branching work in x86-64? What is a label? How can we translate if statements into assembly?
DS 7.4
L05 Mon, Oct 12 x86-64 Loops & Data [ pdf ]
Can you decipher the mystery programs? How do memory instructions work?
DS 7.5-7.6
Project01 (jvm) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Oct 12
L06 Wed, Oct 14 x86-64 Procedures [ pdf ]
How do function calls and returns work? What is 'the stack' really?
DS 7.7-7.9, 12
L07 Fri, Oct 16 Security: Buffer Overflows
What happens if we read past the end of a buffer? How can we exploit this?
L08 Mon, Oct 19 Security: Buffer Overflows, Continued
Are there more sophisticated buffer overflow attacks? How do those work?
Project02 (asmgen) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Oct 19
L09 Wed, Oct 21 Dynamic Memory: Basic [ pdf ]
What does a "basic" implementation of malloc look like?
L10 Fri, Oct 23 Dynamic Memory: Advanced [ pdf ]
How can we make a performant malloc implementation?
L11 Mon, Oct 26 Dynamic Memory: Garbage Collection [ pdf ]
How does Python handle reclaiming memory?
L12 Wed, Oct 28 ECF: Processes [ pdf ]
What is a process? How does Linux create, maintain, and destroy processes? How do shells work?
DS 13.2, OSTEP 5
L13 Fri, Oct 30 ECF: Signals [ pdf ]
How do programs that are misbehaving get dealt with? How does the kernel communicate to user programs that something important has happened?
DS 13.4.1
:( Mon, Nov 02 No Class
Project03 (shellcode) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Nov 02
:( Wed, Nov 04 No Class
L14 Fri, Nov 06 Memory: Locality & The Memory Hierarchy [ pdf ]
How is memory unified into a seemingly giant array? What properties of programs make this work? How can we write good programs that take advantage of these properties?
DS 11.1-11.2
L15 Mon, Nov 09 Memory: Cache Memories DS 11.3
L16 Wed, Nov 11 Memory: Virtual Memory
DS 13.3
L17 Fri, Nov 13 Security: Side-Channel Attacks
L18 Mon, Nov 16 Security: Meltdown
Project04 (malloc) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Nov 16
ExtraCredit01 (gc) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Nov 16
L19 Wed, Nov 18 Concurrent Programming: Processes & Threads
L20 Fri, Nov 20 Concurrent Programming: pthreads & mutexes
L21 Mon, Nov 23 Concurrent Programming: condition variables
Project05 (meltdown) due @ 11:30 pm on Mon, Nov 23
:( Wed, Nov 25 No Class: Thanksgiving
:( Fri, Nov 27 No Class: Thanksgiving
L22 Mon, Nov 30 Concurrent Programming: Pitfalls
L23 Wed, Dec 02 Final Exam Review
L24 Fri, Dec 04 Victory Lap
Project06 (passwd) due @ 11:30 pm on Fri, Dec 04
Final (final nocollab) due @ 11:30 pm on Wed, Dec 09