CSE 351: The Hardware/Software Interface

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Goals and Syllabus

Course Description

From the course catalogue:

CSE 351: The Hardware/Software Interface (4) - Examines key computational abstraction levels below modern high-level languages; number representation, assembly language, introduction to C, memory management, the operating-system process model, high-level machine architecture including the memory hierarchy, and how high-level languages are implemented. Prerequisite: CSE 143.

Course Goals

This course should develop students’ sense of “what really happens” when software runs — and that this question can be answered at several levels of abstraction, including the hardware architecture level, the assembly level, the C programming level and the Java programming level. The core around which the course is built is C, assembly, and low-level data representation, but this is connected to higher levels (roughly how basic Java could be implemented), lower levels (the general structure of a processor), and the role of the operating system (but not how the operating system is implemented).

For (computer science) students wanting to specialize at higher levels of abstraction, this could in the extreme be the only course they take that considers the “C level” and below. However, most will take a subset of Systems Programming (CSE333), Hardware Design and Implementation (CSE352), Operating Systems (CSE451), Compilers (CSE401), etc.

For students interested in hardware, embedded systems, computer engineering, computer architecture, etc., this course is the introductory course after which other courses will delve both deeper (into specific topics) and lower (into hardware implementation, circuit design, etc.). Or particular interest are Embedded Software (CSE466), Advanced Digital Design (CSE467), and Computer System Design and Organization (CSE471).

Course Themes

The course has three principal themes:

Course Objectives

At the end of this course, students should:

Course Syllabus

Approximate list of topics (approximately 1 week each - 2 to 4 lectures):

Note that even more important than the topics at various levels of abstraction is the connection between them: students should get an informal sense of how Java could be translated to C, C to assembly, and assembly to binary.