COURSE GOALS: This course has four purposes. First, you will learn about the hierarchy of abstractions and implementations that comprise a modern computer system. This will provide a conceptual framework that you can then flesh out with courses such as compilers, operating systems, databases, networks, security, real-time systems, and others. The second purpose is to demystify the machine and the tools that we use to program it. This includes telling you the little details that students usually have to learn by osmosis. In combination, these two purposes will give you the background to understand many different computer systems. The third purpose is to bring you up to speed in doing systems programming in a low-level language (C) in the Unix (Linux/GCC/GDB/etc) environment. The final purpose is to prepare you for upper-level courses in systems.

This is a learn-by-doing kind of class. You will write pieces of code, compile them, debug them, disassemble them, measure their performance, optimize them, etc.

This course is ideally taken after EECS 211 early in your academic career. This is a REQUIRED COURSE for the CS Major.

You are encouraged to examine the latest EECS 213 web site for more information.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOK : Bryant & O'Hallaron, Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective, Pearson, 3rd edition


  • Kernighan and Ritchie, The C Programming Language, Second Edition , Prentice Hall, 1988.
  • Stevens, Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment , Addison-Wesley, 1992.

COURSE INSTRUCTORS: Prof. Nikos Hardavellas (Fall), Prof. Peter Dinda (Spring)


PREREQUISITES: EECS 211 or EECS 230 (Intro C++)

PREREQUISITE FOR: EECS 322 (Compilers), 339 (Databases), 340 (Networking), 343 (Operating Systems), 350 (Security), 397 (Real-time), 441, 442


  • HW 1: Integer and Floating Point Number Representations
  • HW 2: De-compiling Assembly Code
  • HW 3: Memory and Cache
  • HW 4: Virtual Memory and I/O


Lab assignments are generally continuously autograded with current scores available from the web. Beyond “making the grade”, students are encouraged to compete.

  • Data Lab: Building Complex Operators from Limited Numbers of Simple Ones
  • Bomb Lab: Defusing a Binary Bomb Using a Debugger and Knowledge of How a Compiler Works
  • Exploit Lab: Learning Stack Discipline by Building Buffer Overflow Exploits
  • Malloc Lab: Developing a Small, but Critical Piece of Systems Software, a Heap Memory Allocator Library

EXAMS: The exams are open book, but no electronic devices are allowed. Students that have only an electronic version of the book will not be able to use it during the exams.

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