Course Information

Times and Locations


Teaching Assistants (in order of office hours schedule)

How to Contact Us

Please post your questions of a general nature to the course Piazza site. (Click here to join the COMP 321 Piazza.)

Please e-mail your questions of an administrative (or private) nature to the staff mailing list:

Course Description

The primary goal of this course is to expose you to the underlying aspects of computer systems that have an impact on application programming. The major topics of this course include linking, exceptions, memory allocation and management, networking, and concurrency. These topics are important in all computer systems and will prepare you for future courses in compilers, operating systems, computer architecture, and networking.

This course also introduces and uses the C programming language. C is generally considered a low-level programming language, because all of its features can be implemented in a fairly straightforward manner on typical modern processors. Moreover, C exposes the details of memory allocation and management to the programmer. Therefore, it is much easier to gain an in-depth understanding of computer systems, as they relate to programming, by writing applications in C. These lessons can prove invaluable when writing complicated applications in higher-level languages, and when writing tools or building systems that will be used by other programmers. More pragmatically, despite the benefits of higher-level languages, C is still one of the most widely used languages, so a familiarity with it is useful.


ELEC 220 and COMP 215



Randal E. Bryant and David R. O'Hallaron. Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective, Third Edition.


David Griffiths and Dawn Griffiths. Head First C.

This is an introductory book that teaches C programming if you feel you need more material on C. If you are looking more for a reference book, there are some listed on the Related Links page.

Honor Code Policy


Unless otherwise stated, assignments are to be done individually. You may use your text, course notes, and any other reference material (such as C reference books, C reference web pages, or Unix man pages). You may discuss assignment problems, general strategies, or algorithms with other students in the course. However, you may not colloborate on the implementation of those strategies or algorithms and you must write all of your own code. You may not obtain any code from any source, aside from code provided as a part of the course. You may not consult solutions from prior semesters of this course or from similar courses at other universities. For assignments that allow work to be done in groups, you may work within your group however you see fit, but otherwise this policy applies to the entire group as if it were an individual.


The final exam will be an open book exam, but will be restricted to the course text, course handouts, your assignments and their solutions from the current semester, and any notes that you have taken yourself. You may not consult assignment or exam problem solutions from prior semesters of this course or from similar courses at other universities.

Students with Disabilities

Any student with a documented disability seeking academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All such discussions will remain as confidential as possible. Students with disabilities will need to also contact the Disability Resource Center in the Allen Center.