Syllabus and general information for MCS-178: Introduction to Computer Science II (Spring 2003)


In MCS-178 we continue exploring the perspectives and methods of computer science, particularly abstraction. We'll first consider the notion of computations with changing state by looking "under the hood" at computers. We'll extend this notion of state into other areas, such as the use of state to construct more efficient computational processes than otherwise, and the use of object-based and object-oriented programming to model systems of objects with changing state. Along the way, we'll also confront language issues, by investigating how one might write and modify a Scheme system in Scheme (a so-called meta-circular evaluator) and by introducing a second programming language, Java. At the end of the semester we'll take a brief look at Java's use in writing event-driven and concurrent programs (those that behave in response to user actions and those that do more than one thing at a time).

Office hours

I will be available in my office (OHS 303) 10:30-11:20 Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, as well as by appointment. Or try your luck: just stop by and see whether my door is open. You may send me electronic mail at or call me at extension 7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my web page, so check there if in doubt.

World Wide Web

All course materials will be available through my World Wide Web page. The URL for this course is After this syllabus I will give hardcopy handouts only to those students who want them.


The normal prerequisite is MCS-177 (or MC27).

Text and readings

The primary text for the course will be Concrete Abstractions: An Introduction to Computer Science by Max Hailperin, Barbara Kaiser, and Karl Knight. We will cover chapters 10-15.

There's also an on-line Java Tutorial at, and copies of several Java books in the MCS Lab monitors' room, any of which you are welcome to use as a supplement to the material on Java in our book.

Course structure

Classes will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; except in the last week of the semester, labs will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays. Note that all Monday/Wednesday/Friday sessions will be at 1:30, even when (at the end of the semester) they are in the lab. Labs will be held in the OHS 326 lab, using the Linux computers. David Wolfe will be the primary lab instructor.


The two intra-term exams will be conducted during the evening from 7:30-9:0pm on March 11 and April 15, in OHS 321 and OHS 103, respectively. Please let me know as soon as possible if you won't be able to take the tests at those times. The final exam will be as scheduled by the registrar; a tentative date and time is shown in the syllabus.

Mastery homework

The syllabus shows due dates for six homework assignments; each will typically consist of four or five problems. You must turn in all the problems in an assignment by that assignment's due date, but may turn in individual problems earlier if you wish. I will mark each problem as "mastered" or "not yet mastered," and return them to you as rapidly as I can. For those not yet mastered, I may write some brief indication of what area needs work, but you should really take these as an invitation to come talk. You may turn in a revised version of each problem however many times it takes to reach the "mastered" point, even after the original due date. The only restrictions are these:

Note that if you turn in each homework problem as soon as you can do it, rather than saving them for the assignment due dates, you will have more opportunity for revision and resubmission before the cutoff dates listed above. Particularly for the last homeworks before each cutoff date (and test), I can't guarantee you'll have time for a revision cycle otherwise.

I may also announce an earlier cutoff date for any individual problem I consider important for us to discuss in class.

The homework portion of your course grade will simply be determined by the fraction of the homework problems you eventually mastered.

Attendance policy

Attendance is mandatory for all lab sessions, unless you have already turned in your project report. I will excuse up to two absences per student, for any reason. Use yours wisely. If you exceed this allowance, I may reduce your course grade by up to one letter grade.

Regarding class days, the policy is that you will be responsible for all material, whether or not you are in attendance when it is covered or distributed.


Students are encouraged to discuss the course, including issues raised by the assignments. However, the solutions to assignments should be individual original work unless otherwise specified. If an assignment makes you realize you don't understand the material, ask a fellow student a question designed to improve your understanding, not one designed to get the assignment done. To do otherwise is to cheat yourself out of understanding, as well as to be intolerably dishonorable.

Any substantive contribution to your solution by another person or taken from a publication should be properly acknowledged in writing. Failure to do so is plagiarism and will necessitate disciplinary action.

The same standards regarding plagiarism apply to team projects as to the work of individuals, except that the author is now the entire team rather than an individual. Anything taken from a source outside the team should be be properly cited.

One additional issue that arises from the team authorship of project reports is that all team members must stand behind all reports bearing their names. All team members have quality assurance responsibility for the entire project. If there is irreconcilable disagreement within the team it is necessary to indicate as much in the reports; this can be in the form of a "minority opinion" or "dissenting opinion" section where appropriate.

Late lab assignments

All lab assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. Late assignments will be penalized by one "grade notch" (such as A to A- or A- to B+) for each weekday late or fraction thereof. However, no late assignments will be accepted after I've handed graded assignments back or discussed the assignment's solutions in class.

If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you will not be penalized. Simply write "late due to illness" at the top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in. Other circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Grade changes

Please point out any arithmetic or clerical error I make in grading, and I will gladly fix it. You may also request reconsideration if I have been especially unjust.


I will provide you with a grade on each lab assignment and on each test, in addition to the mid-term and final grades, so that you may keep track of your performance. As a guideline, the components will contribute in the following proportion to the final grade: Please see me if you have any question how you stand.

Style guidelines

All homework and project reports should be readily readable, and should not presuppose that we already know what you are trying to say. Use full English sentences where appropriate (namely almost everywhere) and clear graphs, tables, programs, etc. Remember that your goal is to communicate clearly, and that the appearance of these technical items plays a role in this communication process. Be sure your assignments are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.

Each project assignment will include specific expectations for that project's report, including the audience for which it should be written. You should pay careful attention to this information.


Please contact me immediately if you have a learning or physical disability requiring accommodation.


When a reading is indicated as going to a particular page number, it means up to the heading on that page. The same section number on the next class day then indicates to finish the section.

This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material. However, don't be shocked if I have to pass out one or more revised syllabi.
2/1011.1-11.2The SLIM architecture
2/11Writing about experiments (9am students: OHS 306)
2/1211.3SLIM's instruction set
2/13Lab 1: Assembly language programming
2/14No class: campus conversation

2/1711.4Iteration in assembly language
2/18Lab 1 (continued)
2/1911.5Recursion in assembly languageHW 1
2/20Lab 1 (continued)
2/21More on assembly programming

2/2411.6Memory in Scheme: vectors
2/25Lab 1 (concludes)
2/26No class: trip to Federated Insurance
2/27No lab
2/2812.1-12.2Revisiting tree recursionLab 1

3/4Lab 2: Optimally playing the etaoin game
3/512.4Dynamic programmingHW 2
3/6Lab 2 (continued)
3/712.5Comparing memoization and dynamic programming

3/10Review; catch-up
3/11Test 1, 7:30-9:00pm, OHS 321; no lab
3/13Lab 2 (continued)

3/17More on Micro-Scheme
3/18Lab 2 (concludes)
3/1910.4Global definitions: Mini-SchemeLab 2
3/20Lab 3: Extending evaluators
3/2110.5Adding explanatory outputHW 3

3/2413.1-13.2Arithmetic expressions revisited
3/25Lab 3 (continued)
3/26Introduction to Java
3/27Lab 3 (continued)
3/28No class

4/7Rep. invariants, stacks, and queuesHW 4
4/8Lab 3 (concludes)
4/9Graph algorithmsLab 3
4/10Lab 4: Word ladders
4/11More on graph algorithms

4/14Review; catch-up
4/15Test 2, 7:30-9:00pm, OHS 103; no lab
4/1614.1-14.2Object-oriented programming
4/17Lab 4 (continued)

4/22Lab 4 (continued)
4/23More on object-oriented programming
4/24Lab 4 (concludes)
4/2514.3Extensions/variations on compu-dudsHW 5

4/2814.5The Land of Gack
4/29No lab: trip to West Group
4/30Lab 5: Adventures in the Imaginary Land of Gack (lab instead of class)Lab 4
5/1Lab 5 (continued)
5/215.1-15.2Java, again

5/515.3Event-driven GUI programming in Java
5/6Lab 5 (continued)
5/7More on event-driven GUI programming
5/8Lab 5 (continued)
5/915.4ConcurrencyHW 6

5/12More on concurrency
5/13Lab 5 (concludes)
5/14Lab 6: Java and Concurrency (lab instead of class)Lab 5
5/15Lab 6 (continued)
5/16Lab 6 (continued) (lab instead of class)

5/19Lab 6 (continued) (lab instead of class)
5/20Lab 6 (concludes)
5/21Review and evaluationLab 6

5/23Final, 3:30-5:30pm, OHS 320

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>
Primary lab instructor: David Wolfe <>