Computer Science Department
College of Arts and Sciences

Fundamentals of Computing Systems

This course is a required junior-level Computer Science course. It covers the fundamental concepts underlying the design and implementation of computing systems.

The philosophy underlying the design of this course is that students should be familiarized with problems that reoccur in software systems, and should be acquainted with the set of classical algorithms/techniques for solving such problems. In particular, it is important to develop the ability to recognize standard problems in different wordings and within unusual context, and match them with appropriate solutions.

Catalog Description:
Rigorous treatment of invariant concepts, algorithms, and performance evaluation methods underlying computing systems design. Topics include modeling and analysis of concurrent processing, computational resource scheduling and consumption, and performance evaluation techniques.

CS-210: Basic computer organization and software/hardware interface concepts, which are covered in CS-210.
CS-113: Basic algorithms and data structures, which are covered in CS-112 or CS-113.
MA-293: Basic mathematical structures and elementary probability theory which are covered in MA-293.

Function in the Curriculum:
As a core undergraduate course, CS-350 does not focus on particular implementations or specific technologies. On the contrary, it stresses the fundamental concepts and basic algorithms that have survived (and are likely to survive) the evolution of computer software systems in general, and operating systems in particular.

This course is significantly different in purpose and coverage from CS-210 (Computer Systems). CS-210 introduces computer systems to sophomores using a hands-on approach by examining the "mechanics" of modern (or typical) computer operation through exposure to various interfaces between architecture, compilers, loaders, linkers, and run-time systems. CS-350 does not focus on a particular interface or a particular technology, rather it deals with fundamental notions and algorithms that are common to computing systems in general and to software systems in particular.

This course is required for the following advanced courses: CS-552 (Advanced Operating Systems), CS-550 (Advanced Computer Architecture), CS-551 (Parallel Computing Architectures and Models), CS-555 (Data Communications), CS-560 (Databases), and CS 470/670 (Performance Analysis). In that respect, this course covers basic notions that we expect students (graduates and undergraduates alike) enrolling into these classes to have mastered. For example, it is inconceivable that a student who is interested in taking a database or an operating systems class, not to have been exposed to the notion of concurrent processing and mutual exclusion, for example. Similarily, it is unconceivable for a student enrolled in a networking, database, or operating systems class, not to have been exposed to performance analysis using simple queueing systems, for example.

Topical contents:
The topics covered in this class could be grouped under 3 general themes:

The first half of the semester will be devoted to the coverage of the first two of the above themes, whereas the second half of the semester will be devoted to the coverage of the third of the above themes.

It is very important to realize that this is NOT an Operating Systems course. Despite the nature of the textbook, this course will not get into specifics of operating systems (e.g. API, Unix/Solaris/NT implementations). Of course, the concepts studied in this course are central to more advanced system courses (including Operating Systems, Networking, and Databases, as discussed above).

Created on: 1997.10.01
Updated on: 2000.01.10
Maintainer: Azer Bestavros