Course Description

Includes substantial programming experience in languages that expose machine characteristics and low-level data representation (e.g., C and C++); explicit memory management; interacting with operating-system services; and cache-aware programming.


  • CSE351 (The Hardware/Software Interface): CSE 351 provides students with rudimentary knowledge of C programming; the ability to write, run, and debug programs; familiarity with Linux and the use of Linux compilation, editing, and debugging tools; a solid mental model of the relationship between high-level code (C) and assembly-level compiled code.


  • CSE 143 (Intro Programming II): CSE 143 is not a direct prerequisite, but it is a prerequisite to CSE 351. It would be beneficial to be familiar with some of the topics discussed in CSE 143. This includes classes, inheritance, good style practices and simple data structures such as linked lists, trees, hash tables, and queues. Further knowledge of Java and these data structures is not required, but could be helpful!
  • Courage and perseverance, even in the face of complexity and uncertainty.

Course Materials

CSE Linux Environment

All assignments in this class will be graded on the CSE Linux environment. We strongly recommend that you work on the assignments in this same environment. There are three ways to do this:

  1. Log into a Linux PC located in one of the undergraduate workstation labs
  2. Remotely log in to
  3. Install and use the CSE home VM on your personal machine


There are no strictly required texts for this courses. Most people will find it useful to have both a C and a C++ reference; suggestions are given below. We strongly recommend that you have a copy of the C++ Primer as C++ is a big, complex language and it is hard to understand how it all fits together from just Google and Stack Overflow snippets and folklore.

Strongly Recommended:


Approximate Topic List

  1. C Programming (< 2 weeks)
    • Review of basic C programming and memory model from 351
    • Pointers, structs, casts
    • Arrays and strings
    • 2-D arrays with and without pointers
    • Dynamic storage allocation (malloc/free)
    • C preprocessor, multifile programs
    • Core C libraries (I/O, strings, etc.)
    • Idioms for error handling without exceptions
  2. Essential Tools for C/C++ (1 week)
    • Compilers, debuggers, make
    • Advanced tools (memory leak detection, performance profiling, code coverage)
    • Version control, code reviews, unit testing
  3. Memory Management and System Interface (1 week)
    • Idioms for manual memory management; avoiding dangling pointers and memory leaks
    • Memory management implementation
    • Linking and libraries: how a program is assembled
    • Relation between libraries and underlying OS services
  4. C++ Programming (2-3 weeks)
    • Basic C++: "a better C", C with classes
    • Class definitions, constructors, copy constructors, destructors, const, other details
    • Dynamic memory allocation (new/delete), classes with dynamic data
    • Classes and inheritance in C++; overloading, overriding
    • C++ templates and STL
    • Smart pointers
  5. Best Practices (< 1 week)
    • Class design and patterns in C++
    • Systematic program development and debugging
    • Profiling and optimization
  6. Networking (1 week)
    • TCP/IP overview
    • Basics of client-side and server-side programming
  7. Concurrency in C/C++ (< 1 week)
    • Concurrent programming beyond 351
    • Asychronous I/O, networking, and user interfaces
    • Brief reintroduction to threads
  8. Security Issues in C/C++ (< 1 week)
    • Discussed throughout where appropriate, e.g., safe vs unsafe library functions

Course Components

  1. Lectures: There will be 26 lectures. Attendance and participation is expected at all of them.
  2. Exercises: People become great programmers by writing lots of code and learning from the experience. We will be assigning a mandatory programming exercise after every few lectures, due in ~4-5 days. These will be relatively short and reinforce the material from the lecture.
  3. Assignments: This course is designed to give you substantial experience with programming. There will be 4 major programming assignments during the quarter that build on top of each other. After the first assignment, they may be done with partners.
  4. Exams: There will be no exam this quarter. Instead we will assign 1 or 2 short reflection questions on every exercise and homework assignment to help you reflect on what you have learned. See the Exams page for more details.


Grading Policies

Your grade in the class will be broken into the following components:

  • Exercises: 30%
  • Homework (Projects): 45%
  • Reflection Questions: 20%
  • Course-Wide Participation 5%

Course-Wide Participation

You can earn credit toward your course-wide participation grade for any of the following:

  • Attending and asking questions in office hours, lectures, and sections
  • Answering questions in section and on the discussion board.
  • Keeping up with the discussion board.
  • Voting on peer instruction questions
  • Discussing with other students during peer-instruction questions in section and lecture
  • Helping others in lecture, during office hours, and on Ed

Note that you do not have to complete all of the listed activities to get full credit for course-wide participation. Participation grades are kept internal to the staff (i.e. not disclosed to students).

Lecture Polling

Lecture will be supplemented with in-class peer instruction questions that will give you a chance to solve a question related to lecture content, discuss with your peers, and vote on the answer. This is designed to give you a chance to check your understanding of the material by applying it on-the-spot, as well as an opportunity to interact with your classmates. You will receive credit for voting on peer instruction questions in lecture (you will receive credit based on participation -- your response does not need to be correct and will be anonymous). Over the course of the quarter, you are allowed to skip a number of peer instruction questions with no penalty.

  1. Register your UWNetID on the . More information can be found from .
  1. Optionally, you may download the Poll Everywhere mobile app.
  1. Bring an Internet-enable device with you to lecture. (Though, with the course online, it would be hard not to do so.)

Assignment Policies

  • Exercises are submitted to and are typically due at 11:00 am on the due date. Exercises will be graded in an environment equivalent to attu using the following categories:
    • Correctness [3 pt]:  Meeting the exercise specifications – produces the desired output for all specified inputs and doesn't segfault or run infinitely on bogus inputs
    • Tools Check [2 pt]:  Based on compiler warnings, valgrind output, and disallowed linter messages
    • Style [3 pt]:  Code style and quality, including code organization and generalizability, naming conventions, error checking, and matching provided code
    • Reflection Questions [6 pt]:  Manually graded by TAs based on quality of your response. Node that reflection questions grades will be calculated separately towards your course grade (i.e. 1 exercise point is not equivalent to 1 reflection question point).
    • A submission that is late or doesn't compile on the CSE Linux environment will automatically receive a score of 0
  • Homework is distributed and submitted via . To submit, you must push a tag that ends with -final (e.g. hw2-final). Assignments will be tested and graded in an environment equivalent to attu so make sure that your code works in the CSE Linux Environment. Homework 1 must be done solo. Homework 2-4 can be done in pairs.

Late Policy

For exercises, no late submissions will be accepted.

For homework, you are allocated a total of 5 late days for the entirety of the quarter to utilize should the need arise.

  • A late day is defined as the 24 hour period after a homework's due date: num_late_days = ceil(hours_late / 24).
  • You are not allowed to use more than two late days for any given assignment.
  • An exception is made for weekends, which count as a single late day. That is, if an assignment is due at 11:59pm on Friday, submitting before Sunday at 11:59pm counts as only ONE day late (submitting by 11:59pm on Monday would count as TWO days late).
  • There is no bonus for having leftover late days at the end of the quarter.

If you exceed the late days afforded to you, you will lose 20% of the assignment score for each day an assignment is overdue. Note that all homework submissions close at most 3 days (the equivalent of 2 late days) after the due date. We strongly encourage you to save late days for emergencies.

Reasonableness: Please contact the course staff in advance if you find it will be difficult to meed deadlines for reasons that are beyond your control. We Will make reasonable exceptions, as we know that no set of rules can apply perfectly in every setting.

Academic Conduct

In general, we encourage collaboration, but there is a very fine line between collaboration and cheating. We can learn a lot from working with each other and it can make the course more fun, but we also want to ensure that every student can get the maximum benefit from the material this course has to offer. Keep in mind that the overall goal is for *YOU* to learn the material so you will be prepared for the exams and for job interviews etc. in the future. Cheating turns the assignments into an exercise that is a silly waste of both your time and ours; save us both by not doing it.

Cheating consists of sharing code or solutions to assignments by either copying, retyping, looking at, or supplying a copy of a file. Examples include:

  • Coaching a friend to arrive at a solution by simply following your instructions (i.e. no thinking involved). An example is helping a friend write a program line-by-line.
  • Copying code from a similar course at another university or using solutions/code on the web, including GitHub.
  • Communicating your solution with another student via electronic or non-electronic means.

Cheating is a very serious offense. If you are caught cheating, you can expect a failing grade and initiation of a cheating case in the University system. Cheating is an insult to the instructor and course staff, to the department and major program, and most importantly, to you and your fellow students. If you feel that you are having a problem with the material, or don't have time to finish an assignment, or have any number of other reasons to cheat, then talk with the instructor. Just don't cheat.

If you are in doubt about what might constitute cheating, send the instructor an email describing the situation and we will be happy to clarify it for you. For more information, you may consult the department's .

Disability Resources

The is a unit within the Division of Student Life and is dedicated to ensuring access and inclusion for all students with disabilities on the Seattle campus. They offer a wide range of services for students with disabilities that are individually designed and remove the need to reveal sensitive medical information to the course staff. If you have a medical need for extensions of exam times or assignment deadlines, these will only be granted through official documentation from DRS. Browse to to start the process as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Extenuating Circumstances and Inclusiveness

We recognize that our students come from varied backgrounds and can have widely-varying circumstances. If you have any unforeseen or extenuating circumstance that arise during the course, please do not hesitate to contact the instructor in office hours, via email, or private Ed post to discuss your situation. The sooner we are made aware, the more easily these situations can be resolved. Extenuating circumstances include work-school balance, familial responsibilities, religious observations, military duties, unexpected travel, or anything else beyond your control that may negatively impact your performance in the class.

Additionally, if at any point you are made to feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or excluded by a staff member or fellow student, please report the incident so that we may address the issue and maintain a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Should you feel uncomfortable bringing up an issue with a staff member directly, you may consider sending or contacting the .

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at . Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the