Foundations of Computer Systems

[Schedule] [Assignments] [Infospaces] [Grading] [Syllabus]


The true voyage of discovery consists not of going to new places, but of having a new pair of eyes.
—Marcel Proust (1871–1922)

Spring 2023
CS250/CS280A1 covers foundational aspects of computer systems encompassing processors, networks, storage, and computing frameworks. A holistic understanding these constructs is key to designing systems (AI, Big Data, clouds, and security) that scale by surfacing problems and solutions from different vantage points. The course includes a discussion of processors, cores, and co-processors (GPUs). Speed differentials across the memory hierarchy and the implications of caching will be covered as well. The discussion of the memory subsystem is complemented with the design of data structures for storage systems. Core foundations of networking including the design of the key elements of the networking stack (IP, TCP, and UDP) will be covered alongside a discussion of DNS and BGP. Current state of the art computing systems are based on parallel and distributed computing frameworks; the course includes an overview of these systems. Finally, the course ends with a future gazing component that explores new, promising systems on the horizon with an emphasis on neuromorphic computing.

Course Objectives
Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Explain core computer systems terminology
  2. Explain binary number representations, signed numbers, and floating-point numbers alongside conversions across numbering systems
  3. Synthesize concepts in Boolean logic and algebra
  4. Distill and build upon core concepts in memory management
  5. Describe the interplay between CPU, memory, the I/O subsystem alongside the execution of programs.
  6. Design programs that leverage networking protocols that underpin the internet including IP, TCP, and UDP.
  7. Design and implement core data structures used for storage systems
  8. Explain the inner workings of Graphic Processing Units (GPUs)
Extensive experimentation through programming assignments is a principal activity of this course. These assignments will focus on developing skills that are immediately transferrable to building real-world systems.

  • CS 163 or CS 164 with a C or higher
  • Concurrent Enrollment in CS 165
This course can be used in lieu of CS270 for all Computer Science majors (for e.g., it will satisfy the prequiste for CS370). For ECE majors: This course may not satisfy the prerequisites for downstream ECE courses: for example, CS250 does not involve assembly programming.

  Senior instructor
Russ Wakefield

Office: Room 240, Computer Science
Office Hours:
10am-11am Wednesday
E-mail: waker {aT} colostate.edu
(with the obvious change)
    Lecture Coordinates
TTH: 9:30-10:45 am
Chemistry A-101

  Teaching Assistants
Office Hours in CSB 120 and Teams

Graduate Teaching Assistants
Ethan Holen

T Santoshkumar

Undergraduate Teaching Assistants
Blake Davisr

Emily Cosgriff

Omar Soliman
    Labs:/Recitations in CSB-315/325

  R1 Wed 9:00-9:50 AM CSB-315
  R2 Wed 11:00-11:50 PM CSB-315
  R3 Wed 12:00-12:50 AM CSB-315
  R4 Wed 1:00-1:50 AM CSB-315
  R5 Wed 2:00-2:50 AM CSB-325
  R6 Wed 3:00-3:50 PM CSB-325
  Online only Wed 7:00-7:50 PM MS Teams

Department of Computer Science, Colorado State University,
Fort Collins, CO 80523 USA
© 2023 Colorado State University
*The course-logo is an image from Microsoft's Online library