Last Updated: 2020-09-05 Sat 14:13

CSCI 2021: Machine Architecture and Organization

University of Minnesota

4 credits, Spring 2020

Table of Contents

1 Basic Information

1.1 Catalog Description

Introduction to hardware/software components of computer system. Data representation, boolean algebra, machine-level programs, instruction set architecture, processor organization, memory hierarchy, virtual memory, compiling, linking. Programming in C.

1.2 Prerequisites

Grade of C or better in CSCI 1913 or 1933 or instructor consent.

It is presumed that students will have the equivalent of 1 year of college-level programming in some high-level language such as Python or Java prior to taking this course. The C programming language will be introduced but not at an introductory level so prior programming experience is a must.

1.3 Course Goals

Students that complete CSCI 2021 will posses the following characteristics.

  • Basic proficiency at C programming including pointers and addressing, dynamic memory allocation and management, basic file I/O operations. Ability to edit, compile, run, and debug C programs.
  • Knowledge of running programs in physical memory including the stack, heap, global, and text areas of memory and how each area behaves. Basic understanding of security risks associated with programming errors related to memory such as buffer overflows.
  • Understanding of the essential elements of assembly languages executed by CPUs, specifically familiarity with the x86 / x86-64 assembly language
  • Knowledge of the correspondence between high-level program constructs and assembly instructions which are executed by the CPU.
  • Ability to use a symbolic debugger to step through both C programs and assembly programs to aid in debugging programs.
  • Basic understanding of how data is encoded in binary including signed and unsigned integers, floating point numbers, character data, and machine instructions
  • Knowledge of computer memory systems, particularly the memory hierarchy of registers, caches, main memory, and permanent storage. Basic understanding of caching techniques and efficient virtual memory address translation to physical addresses.
  • Basic knowledge of computer architecture including the implementation of instructions with Boolean logic gates, processor pipe-lining for efficiency, and out of order instruction execution.

1.4 Staff

Office Hours for staff will be posted on the course Canvas site. Office hours for all staff are open to all students in any section of the course governed by this syllabus.


Name Chris Kauffman
Sections 001 and 010
Office Shepherd 327
Phone 612-626-9351

Teaching Assistants

Name Email Role
Chris Kauffman Prof
"Chase" Min Choi GTA 50%
Jaskaran Veer Singh GTA 50%
Kartik Ramkrishnan GTA 50%
Minjun Wu GTA 25%
Alex Zheng UTA
Anya Anderson UTA
April Roszkowski UTA
Austin Casey UTA
Cole Medin UTA
Davis Everson-Rose UTA
Jacob Walters UTA
John Swenson UTA
Joseph Larson UTA
Josh Trimble UTA
Kerem Ersöz UTA
Kristopher Wrobel UTA
Samuel Symynkywicz UTA
Swati Rampalli UTA
Tien Dinh UTA
Name Email Role

1.5 Lectures and Labs

Meeting Day / Time Online Location
Lec 01 MWF 01:25 PM ‑ 02:15 PM Zoom
Lab 02 Wed 08:00 AM‑08:50 AM Discord
Lab 03 Wed 09:05 AM‑09:55 AM Discord
Lab 04 Wed 10:10 AM‑11:00 AM Discord
Lab 05 Wed 10:10 AM‑11:00 AM Discord
Lab 06 Wed 11:15 AM‑12:05 PM Discord
Lab 07 Wed 11:15 AM‑12:05 PM Discord
Lec 10 MWF 03:35 PM‑04:25 PM Zoom
Lab 11 Wed 12:20 PM‑01:10 PM Discord
Lab 12 Wed 12:20 PM‑01:10 PM Discord
Lab 13 Wed 01:25 PM‑02:15 PM Discord
Lab 14 Wed 01:25 PM‑02:15 PM Discord
Lab 15 Wed 02:30 PM‑03:20 PM Discord
Lab 16 Wed 02:30 PM‑03:20 PM Discord
Lab 17 Wed 11:15 AM‑12:05 PM Discord

1.6 Course Materials


Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective, Third Edition by R. Bryant, D. O'Hallaron, Pearson, 2016
(Required) This is our main course text and covers a wide range of computer architecture issues. The textbook website is here:
C Programming Language Second Edition by Brian Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie, Prentice Hall 1988
(Optional) This is the classic reference to the C programming language. It is aimed at folks with a good understanding of computing systems and is thus not the easiest introduction to the language for beginners. The tutorials below supplement this somewhat.

Additional online resources associated with C programming and architecture will be posted in the course materials.

Video Tutorials

The following Video Programming Tutorials are available via for free via licensing at the UMN. They are not required but can serve as an additional resource on C programming for those that want more explanation than what is provided in lecture and lab meetings.

Note: All of these tutorials favor IDEs (integrated development environments) rather than the command line tools we will use.


It is assumed you will have access to a computer with the ability to edit, compile, and run Unix programs. Some university labs provide this ability; the first week of the course will cover how to set up your personal environment as well. If you have difficulty accessing a suitable environment, contact the course staff.

You will need to create a CSE Labs account for use on assignments and during Discussion. Accounts can be created here:

1.7 Communication

This offering of the course will be administered Online which means you should acquaint yourself with the following resources / policies on communication in the class.

  • Canvas (Course Management): used to provide links to other resources and for Overall grade dissemination
  • Zoom (Video Conferencing): used to present audio/video synchronously such as during lectures and office hours.
  • Gradescope (Assignments/Exams): used to submit most graded work, receive grades on that work, and make requests for regrades.
  • Piazza (Announcements/Async Q&A): used to ask questions on course material outside of synchronous meetings and for staff to make announcements to students.
  • Office Hours for staff will be posted on the course Canvas site. Office hours for all staff are open to all students in any section of the course governed by this syllabus.

How should I contact staff?

Here are common situations for students and the best method to use to contact staff.

  • I have a question on an assignment or course content and there aren't any office hours coming up soon.

    Post your question on Piazza; staff members check several times a day and answer questions there. Make sure to post an answerable question as described in the Etiquette Piazza post and avoid publicly posting large portions of your code.

    You might also try searching Piazza first to see if someone already asked your question and received an answer.

  • I have a logistics questions such as when something is due, when something will happen, etc.

    Also use Piazza for most of these. If a staff member isn't sure how to answer the question, they'll give you they're best guess sooner and ask the Professor to confirm later.

    Staff will often use Piazza for Announcements such as upcoming deadlines or canceled office hours. These announcements will go to student email so check your UMN account regularly.

  • I think some of my work was graded wrong and I want someone to look at it again.

    Gradescope has a "Request Regrade" feature which will be open for students to use after grades are posted. Using this feature will notify whoever graded your work to have another look. If you cannot resolve the issue, your grader will involve the professor. There are some exceptions to this:

    • Homework Quizzes allow you to retake the Quiz to improve your score. No online Regrade Requests will be available, just retake the quiz up to the deadline.
    • Lab Quizzes can only be regraded in Labs/Office Hours up to the next lab. No online Regrade Requests will be available, visit your lab or office hours to talk to a staff member about your mistakes.
  • I need help some one-on-one help and I can't make it to office hours to talk to a staff about it.

    Email one or two of your favorite staff members to see if they can meet outside of their normal office hours. If you don't have luck in the first go, try contacting a different staff member including Prof Kauffman.

  • I had a major life event (got sick / family problem / mental health problem) and I'm wondering how to cope with it and this class.

    Email Prof Kauffman as soon as you can. Explain the situation and we'll work out a plan for how to proceed such as rescheduling exams, extending deadlines, or providing some additional help

  • I'm going to miss a lecture / lab meeting. What should I do?

    No special action is required: all course meetings will be recorded and will be viewable within a day or two of them happening to support the inevitable conflicts that arise.

2 Coursework and Grading

2.1 Graded Components

Final grades will be determined by scores obtained on the components below according to their associated weight.

Component Weight Policy
Engagement Points 10% 1% per point, 0.25% per point above 10, Earned through Lecutre/Lab/Piazza
Homework Quizzes (14) 10% Drop two lowest scores
Individual Projects (5-6) 20% No drops
Midterm Exams (3 x 15%) 45% No drops
Final Exam 15% Comprehensive

2.2 Final Grade Determination

Final grades will be assigned without rounding according to the following criteria.

Percent Grade Percent Grade Percent Grade Percent Grade
>= 93 A 87-89 B+ 77-79 C+ 65-69 D+
90-92 A- 83-86 B 73-76 C 60-64 D
    80-82 B- 70-72 C- <60 F

If circumstances require it, the grading scale may be adjusted, generally in the students' favor.

2.3 Engagement Points

Throughout the semester, students will have opportunities to earn and use engagement points. These are:

  • Attending lecture and participating in discussion
  • Completing Lab Quizzes
  • Answering discussion board questions from other students and receiving "Good Answer" marks from course staff
  • Participating in optional activities announced during the course
  • Late Project submissions COST Engagement Points

Each Engagement Point is worth 1% to a maximum of 10% for a student's overall grade. Each engagement point beyond this earns 0.25% Bonus Credit to a student's overall grade. This is the sole bonus credit mechanism in the course so students are encouraged to attend Lecture and Lab to earn Engagement points.

2.4 Lectures and "Hot Seats"

Lectures will be delivered synchronously at the times mentioned in the course schedule via Zoom. During lectures, students will frequently be asked to work on short exercises in Breakout Rooms with a few of their colleagues. After working on these exercises, the Professor will select a 1-2 "Hot Seat" groups to discuss their answers with the remainder of the class. Showing effort on these exercises will earn Engagement Points for the group facilitating the discussion of answers.

All lectures will be recorded and posted for asynchronous viewing within 48 hours of the meeting. Students not able to attend lecture synchronously will miss the chance to ask questions and earn Engagement Points there can still earn full credit through other means of acquiring Engagement Points such as completing required Lab work.

2.5 Lab Activities

Lab sections meet once per week online. Credit for Labs will be earned by taking an online Lab Quiz with each Quiz worth 1 Engagement Point.

Students do not need to attend lab synchronously to get credit for it but during Lab meetings, staff will demonstrate how to complete labs, correct answers for the Lab Quiz, and allow students to get extra help on their coursework.

At least one Lab section will be recorded and posted for asynchronous viewing for students unable to attend lab.

No late submissions will be accepted for labs. If students lose credit on their Lab Quiz, they can visit staff members during office hours or labs through the following week's lab to discuss their mistakes and make up credit.

2.6 Homework and Quizzes

Each week a set of Homework exercises will be posted online which reinforce and apply lecture topics. Associated with this Homework is an online Quiz. Completing Homework exercises will prepare students to take the online Quiz. Homework and Quizzes are open resource and open collaboration: students may work together with other students in our section(s) of the course to complete homework/quizzes and are encouraged to do so. Submitting identical answers for homework/quizzes is acceptable so long as it does not violate the PRIME DIRECTIVE.

Online Quizzes are graded automatically and scores will be available immediately after completing the quiz. Students can discuss any mistakes they make on Quizzes with course staff during Office Hours or Lab time to earn credit back up to the due date of the associated Quiz. Making up credit can be done up to the published deadline for the HW.

No late submissions for weekly Homework/Quizzes will be accepted and no regrade requests are allowed. Missing the deadline results in 0 credit. The two lowest HW Quiz scores will be dropped in final grade calculations

2.7 Projects

Students will receive a number of programming projects during the semester. Each project will involve writing programs and answering questions about them to illustrate an understanding of course material. Specific projects may allow collaboration between pairs of students or require individual work. Pay careful attention to the guidelines for each programming project. Projects are usually large and require a significant amount of work to complete.

Project grading will include the following elements.

  1. Manual Inspection: Projects will include a checklist of features of completely correct answers. These usually comprise things that cannot be easily checked automatically such as showing the process to reach an answer, inclusion of key elements of an answer, or style aspects of computer code. These features will be checked by graders and assigned credit based on level of compliance.
  2. Automatic Testing: Some projects may have automatic tests provided which check for correctly functioning programs or answers. In most cases, these automatic checks will be publicly available for use while working on the assignment.

2.8 Late Project Submission

Late submission of Projects is governed by the following.

  • No projects will be accepted more than 48 hours after a deadline
  • On-time Projects receive no penalties
  • Submitting 1-24 hours will result in the loss of 1 Engagement Point
  • Submitting 25-48 hours late will result in the loss of 2 Engagement Points
  • Engagement points can be earned in a variety of ways mentioned in the Engagement Points Section.

NOTE: If students attend all 14 Labs, they will earn full engagement scores and have 4 days of late submissions possible.

2.9 Exams

There will be a series of midterm exams during the semester and a comprehensive final exam at the end of the semester. Exams take place during the regularly scheduled lecture period and are worth a significant portion of the overall course grade. Exams will be administered Online via Gradescope. No special monitoring/proctoring software is required but students are expected to work individually and adhere standard academic integrity policies.

All exams are Open Resource Exams: unless otherwise specified you may use any course content during exams including lecture slides, your notes, the textbook, editors/compilers/shells, and any code the you have written or received from course staff. No communication is allowed during the exam (no email/texting/chat), and no Internet searches are allowed (do not "google for answers"). In addition, you may only use exams from previous versions of 2021 if you personally took the exams. If in doubt, ask about specifics before or during the exam.

All exams will be preceded by official Practice Exams so that students can acquaint themselves with the tools and tactics to be successful.

Missing an exam results in a zero score and make-up exams will be considered only in situations involving significant life events. Proof of such circumstances will be required for a make-up to be considered.

2.10 Regrade Requests

Most Project and Exams will be graded via Gradescope which features a Request Regrade Button associated with specific problems and criteria. This will notify the specific individual responsible grading about the dispute. Raise regrade requests respectfully and specifically: mention what you think a grader missed in your answer or why you feel a deduction was unfair. Keep in mind that graders assign credit based on what appears on the project and exams, not post-hoc explanations of answers.

If a Student and Grader are not able to resolve a grading issue to the satisfaction of both, the student can ask the grader to consult the Professor who will review the dispute and resolve it. Students should ask their grader to do this, not email the Professor directly.

When grades are published, there will generally be a 1 week window in which disputes are considered. Failing to request a regrade in that time will forfeit further opportunity to contest the grade.

2.11 Textbook Readings

Readings from the textbook relevant to each lecture are listed in the schedule. You will increase your understanding of lectures by reading associated textbook sections ahead of time, though this is not assumed. We may provide additional reading material to supplement the textbook which will be posted on the course web page.

3 Academic Integrity

PRIME DIRECTIVE: Be able to explain your own work including assignment answers, program code, and exam solutions. The work you submit should be the product of your own effort and reflect your personal understanding.

Nearly all cheating in programming can be averted by adhering to the PRIME DIRECTIVE. Students may be asked at any time to explain code or exam solutions they submit. Inability to do so will be construed as evidence of misconduct. More specific guidelines are given below.

3.1 Thou Shalt Not

Unless otherwise specified, all assessments in this course are individual efforts involving no unfair collaboration. For the purposes of this course, the following actions constitute scholastic misconduct (cheating) and will be reported.

  • Directly copying someone else's solution to an assessment problem, including student solutions from a previous semester
  • Directly copying an answer from some outside source such as the Internet or friend for a homework problem.
  • Making use of an Instructor Solution manual to complete problems.
  • Submitting someone else's work as your own.
  • Using or sharing Exam materials from another student from past offerings of this course; you may view your own past copies of exams but not share them with others.
  • Paying someone for a solutions to assignments/exams.
  • Posting solutions to any web site including public posts to our course web site.
  • Collaborating or copying the work of others during an exam.
  • Taking another student's code with or without their consent.
  • Giving another student one's own code on assignments or exams
  • Aiding or abetting any of the above.
  • Witnessing any of the above and failing to report it to an instructor immediately.

Refer to the following links for additional information.

3.2 Penalties

Any instance of misconduct that is detected will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and will likely result in failing the course. Be advised that the teaching team will be employing electronic means to detect plagiarism. This is extremely easy with computer code so keep your nose clean.

3.3 Fair Collaboration

The purpose of this course is to learn about programming and learning from one another is a great help. To that end, the following actions will NOT be considered cheating in this course.

  • Collaboration on Lab Activities and weekly Exercises/Quizzes is allowed and encouraged. These are a great opportunity to help one another on work that counts towards your final grade. Just make sure that you understand any solutions you submit as per the PRIME DIRECTIVE.
  • Discussing projects at a high level with other course students is fair so long as no code is shared. Take great care at the point of directly showing your work to others as your answers are subsequently out of your own control.
  • Asking public questions on the course discussion board so long as limited information about your own solution is included. To convey details of your solution, use private posts.
  • Asking any course staff member questions in person or online is acceptable and encouraged. Staff members may initiate small group discussions in which collaboration is fine.
  • Making use of your own code or exam materials which you accumulated from past semesters of this class. If you are retaking the course, make sure staff understand this so that no misunderstandings occur.
  • If you are unsure whether a given collaboration is fair or not, stop the activity and clear it with your instructor.

At all times keep the PRIME DIRECTIVE in mind when studying with other students. The above collaborations should be limited to getting someone over a hurdle, not carrying them across the finish line.

4 General Policies

General university policies which apply to our course are listed here:

Summaries of those policies are below.

Students are expected to maintain a high level of civility for all participants in and out of class meetings. This includes respecting participants of all genders, ethnicities, and social backgrounds. Harassment of any type will not be tolerated and failure to behave in a respectful manner will be reported to the University.

Observance of religious events will be accommodated for students of any faith. All possible accommodations will be made for students with disabilities. Please contact the Disability Resource Center and the instructor for further information.

Online Behavior

This being an online class, the following additional policies on student/staff behavior and Academic Integrity also apply:

The gist of the behavior policies are "Don't be a troll" and the Academic Integrity portion reflects our PRIME DIRECTIVE.

Use of Recordings

This course will include video and audio recordings of class lectures and classroom activities. These recordings will be used for educational purposes and the instructor will make these available to students currently enrolled in this course. Students must seek instructor permission in order to share either course recordings or course content/materials. Similarly, instructors who wish to share zoom recordings with other sections or classes must seek and document permission from students whose image or voice are in these recordings.

Author: Chris Kauffman (
Date: 2020-09-05 Sat 14:13