This page collects reading and class material by topic. Readings should be completed in preparation for the accompanying class meeting.



At least one copy of each text is available in the microfocus for use within the CS department area. Please do not remove them from the lab areas. Return them to the shelf when you are done.

We use one primary textbook that you should acquire:

  • CSAPP 3e: microfocus has 2 copies
    Computer Systems: A Programmer’s Perspective, 3/E. (3rd edition, significant changes since 2nd)
    Bryant and O’Hallaron, Pearson, 2016. ISBN-13: 9780134092669.
    You need the 3rd edition. See the errata.
    “Global” 3rd editions mostly work, but have some additional errors (not listed on that page).

We provide and use other textbooks mainly during the first 1/3 of the course:

We recommend a good reference on the C programming language. There are many online resources of various quality. One classic book is:

How to read for CS 240

CS 240 moves quickly and covers a lot of ground. To make class time effective, students should be ready to hit the ground running. Class meetings and group exercises will assume cursory familiarity with basic ideas from assigned readings posted on the course schedule. Reading before class to learn basic mechanics frees up more time in class to apply or debug your understanding of these mechanics and to consider their deeper implications. Regular reading quizzes will help motivate you to be prepared to participate.

Bonus benefits of reading:

  • Class is more fun if come with a rough idea of where we’re going and what to watch out for along the way.
  • Spending x minutes on reading now often saves multiples times x minutes of puzzlement or debugging later while working on assignments.
  • We get to spend more time in class doing and less time listening to lectures.

Most topics on the course schedule have associated reading. Effective reading for computer science courses demands a staged approach. Aim for two types of reading:

Before class, do an initial reading of the assigned reading material in preparation for class. (No need to look over the slides before class.)

Do not worry about understanding every last detail.

Do aim to acquire:

  • A big-picture view of the pieces we will consider about this topic.
  • Some familiarity with basic mechanics of the ideas introduced.

To help distinguish core points from secondary concerns during initial reading, each reading is listed with one of two style directives:

  • Read means read for enough detail to do indicated reading exercises. If you do get stuck or confused by some details, do not worry. Make a note and move on. If we do not clear up your confusion in class, ask a question or come to office hours.
  • Skim means read for high-level ideas. Perhaps pick out a couple details that look interesting and accessible. Do not spend much time trying to understand all the details before moving on.

Learning how to identify essential vs. inessential details during a first reading is an important skill that takes time to develop. As the semester progresses, we will leave more of this to you.

Readings assignments may indicate specific exercises to try as you read before class. These are typically practice problems from the reading.

  • Try means work through enough of the exercise to see how the basics work. Do not feel obligated to finish every example. Do what is useful to you. (Do not submit anything.)

We typically highlight exercises that practice mechanics. Feel free to try other practice problems as well. They may require more time and critical thinking. We will explore such interesting examples in class.

Short reading quizzes (administered electronically before class or on paper in class) count toward your grade. They will be short and similar in style to reading exercises, focused on basic concepts and mechanics. See the syllabus for grading info.

After class, revisit readings in more depth and try more practice problems to work out details as needed.

More advice

Our main text (CSAPP) sometimes goes into more detail than we will cover, so learning to “read around” extra detail is a useful skill, especially in your pre-class reading.

When reading from CSAPP:

  • “Asides” are optional. If you read them, skim them.
  • “New to C?” blocks can be useful, but usually only if they are short.
  • Some sections (e.g., 2.2 - 2.4 on integer and floating point representations) can be too dense for our purposes. We try steer you around them, but if you find other things getting dense, flip to another reading or just make a note and jump ahead.
  • This book really shines with later material about machine/assembly language, caching, memory management, and other topics. We use it intermittently in the first section of the course, then extensively for the latter two.

Tia Newhall (Swarthmore College) has more good advice on reading computer science textbooks.

Material by Topic

topic the plan

← Tuesday, 24 January - Wednesday, 25 January

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: Syllabus
  • Skim: CSAPP 1.0 - 1.7, 1.9.2 - 1.10

Computer Hardware Implementation

topic digital logic

← Thursday, 26 January - Monday, 30 January

In-class material (slides)


Reading Quiz

By our first full class day on this topic, you should be familiar with at least the basics of logic gates, notation for Boolean expressions, and a little Boolean algebra.

Optional alternatives/extras for before or after class:

Try these if you want alternatives to the DDCA reading above or if you want some practice or you just can’t wait until class.

topic integer representation

← Monday, 30 January - Thursday, 2 February

In-class material (slides)


Reading Quiz

Remember how to read.

Binary and hexadecimal number systems

Information as bits + context

  • Read: CSAPP 2 - 2.1.2
  • Exercises: CSAPP practice problems 2.1 - 2.4. (Solutions at end of chapter.)

For reference after the second class on integer representation:

Use this after class for reference. We’d like to introduce signed integer representations before you read about them. Come back to this after class.

As you read, focus on the positional representation of signed integers more than the mechanics of how to convert from integer representation to the representation you know well.

Read one of:

  • “Twos Complement” section of these notes. Stop at “Floating Point.”
  • Fundamental of Data Representation: Two’s Complement
  • SCO A.4 - A.5
  • CSAPP’s treatment of number representation is more thorough, but many students find it too dense and will at least want to skip some parts.
    • Read: CSAPP 2.2 - 2.2.3.
    • Skim: CSAPP 2.2.4 - 2.2.8.
    • Read: CSAPP 2.3-2.3.3

topic combinational logic

← Monday, 6 February

In-class material (slides)


Karnaugh Maps

Multiplexers and decoders

topic logic for arithmetic, ALU

← Monday, 6 February

In-class material (slides)



  • Read one of:
    • DDCA 5.1 - 5.2.1 (pages 233-234) up through Ripple Carry Adders (feel free to skim beyond if you are curious), alt. ebook (ignore Verilog and VHDL)
    • SCO 3.2.3 (Arithmetic Circuits)
    • Digital Circuits: Adders up until Carry Lookahead Adder (feel free to skim beyond if you are curious)

Arithmetic Logic Unit

  • Read one of these to understand the high-level organization of an ALU. We will look at details of a specific ALU design in class.

topic bitwise operations

← Thursday, 9 February

In-class material (slides)


Bitwise Boolean algebra and bit manipulation

  • Read: CSAPP 2.1.6 - 2.1.9 (including the Asides.)
  • Exercises: CSAPP practice problems 2.8, 2.9, 2.14, 2.16
  • Optional: K&R 2.7, 2.9 for C reference

Review two’s complement.

Integer multiplication and division, relation to bitwise operations, sign extension

  • Skim: CSAPP 2.2.4 - 2.2.8.
  • Read: CSAPP 2.3.4-2.3.8

topic latches, flip-flops, registers

← Monday, 13 February

In-class material (slides)


topic a simple processor

← Thursday, 16 February - Tuesday, 21 February

In-class material (slides)


Read for general organization and design points about instruction set architecture and microarchitecture. We will build our own toy architecture in class and lab.

  • Read: Central Processing Unit (Operation section)
  • Read: SCO 2.1 - 2.1.2, 2.2.2, 5.1 - 5.1.2 (stop at “Note that having separate address spaces for instructions and data”), skim 5.1.3 - 5.1.4
  • Alternatives:
    • Read: CSAPP 1.4.1, 2.1.0
    • DDCA 7.3-7.3.3 (alt. ebook) describes a similar microarchitecture for a similar 32-bit ISA, but relies on some detail from an extensive discussion of instruction set architecture in Chappter 6. Our coverage will be more cursory.

topic floating point

← Thursday, 23 February

In-class material (slides)


  • Skim one of:
  • If you want more detail (e.g., on denormalization as discussed in class, or many in-depth examples), read CSAPP 2.4.

Hardware-Software Interface

topic programming with memory

← Monday, 27 February - Monday, 6 March

In-class material (slides)


General memory model:

  • Read: SCO 2.2.2 - 2.2.3, 5.1.2 (stop at “Note that having separate address spaces for instructions and data”)
  • Read: CSAPP 2.1.0, 2.1.3 - 2.1.4

Mix and match to start learning about addresses and pointers in C:

topic reasoning about programs

← Monday, 6 March

In-class material (slides)


For later:

topic x86 ISA, assembly

← Thursday, 9 March - Monday, 13 March

In-class material (slides)


Reading Quiz for second class meeting on this topic


  • Skim: CSAPP 3 - 3.2

Data Movement

  • Read: CSAPP 3.3 - 3.4 (including “New to C?” to help remember those pointers…)
  • Exercises: try CSAPP practice problems 3.1, 3.2. Take a look at practice problem 3.5, but don’t spend too long on it. We’ll try more like this in class.


  • Read: CSAPP 3.5 - 3.5.4
  • Exercises: try CSAPP practice problems 3.8, 3.9. (Note x <<= 4; is the same as x = x << 4;.)
  • Skim: CSAPP 3.5.5

topic control flow

← Monday, 13 March - Thursday, 16 March

In-class material (slides)


Comparisons, Tests, and Jumps

  • Read: CSAPP 3.6 - 3.6.4
  • Exercises: Try CSAPP practice problems 3.13 - 3.14. Just consider what operator you’d put in place of COMP or TEST to match the assembly code. (Don’t worry about #define etc. if you don’t remember how macros work.)

Translating ifs and loops

  • Read: CSAPP 3.6.5, 3.6.7
  • Exercises: CSAPP practice problems 3.16, 3.23, 3.24

Translating switch statements

  • Skim: CSAPP 3.6.8, 3.6.6

topic procedures and stacks

← Monday, 20 March - Thursday, 23 March

In-class material (slides)


Reading Quiz

Please read/skim in advance of first class; complete reading quiz by second class on procedures.

  • Read: CSAPP 3.7
  • Exercises:
    • Follow the examples in detail.
    • Consider this code:

        call next
        popq %rax

      Describe the (meaning of the) value that gets stored into %rax. Why is there no ret instruction matching the call? Is this code useful? For what? This not how call is typically used, but it is a good test to check if you understand exactly what the call instruction does.

topic buffer overrun exploits

← Thursday, 23 March

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: CSAPP 3.10.3
  • Exercises: CSAPP practice problem 3.46.

topic data structures

← Monday, 3 April

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: CSAPP 3.8 - 3.10.1

Abstractions for Practical Systems

topic memory hierarchy and cache

← Thursday, 6 April - Monday, 10 April

In-class material (slides)


Reading Quiz for First Class Day of Cache Material

  • Skim: CSAPP 1.5-1.6, 6.1
  • Read 6.2-6.4.3

For Second Class Day of Cache Material:

  • Read 6.4-6.5
  • As an informal (no grade) reading quiz, take a look at 1a and 1b in the upcoming lab assignment. We’ll see similar examples in class.

topic operating systems, process model

← Thursday, 13 April

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: CSAPP 1.7, 8.2 - 8.4

topic shells and signals

← Thursday, 13 April

In-class material (slides)

topic exceptional control flow

← Thursday, 20 April

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: CSAPP 8.1

topic virtual memory

← Thursday, 20 April - Monday, 24 April

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: CSAPP 9.0 - 9.7

topic dynamic memory allocation

← Thursday, 27 April - Monday, 1 May

In-class material (slides)


  • Read: CSAPP 9.9
  • Skim: CSAPP 9.10 - 9.12

topic garbage collection

← Monday, 1 May

In-class material (slides)

topic compilers, runtime systems

← Monday, 1 May

In-class material (slides)

topic parallelism and concurrency

← Thursday, 4 May

In-class material (slides)

topic beyond 240

← Thursday, 4 May

In-class material (slides)