This course makes use of Athena, MIT's UNIX-based computing environment. OCW does not provide access to this environment.
Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session
Recitations: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session
Tutorials: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session
6.004 Computation Structures
This course covers topics on the engineering of computer software and hardware systems: techniques for controlling complexity; strong modularity using client-server design, virtual memory, and threads; networks; atomicity and coordination of parallel activities; recovery and reliability; privacy, security, and encryption; and impact of computer systems on society. Case studies of working systems and readings from the current literature provide comparisons and contrasts. Two design projects are required, and students engage in extensive written communication exercises.
6.033 Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
You will receive two grades: one from the writing program (your writing grade) and one from the 6.033 staff (your 6.033 grade), which are combined in a final grade as follows.
Your final grade is your 6.033 grade unless you received lower than a B for your writing grade. If you receive lower than a B, your final grade will be your 6.033 grade but dropped by one letter grade.
Your 6.033 grade is based on three components: section evaluation, design projects, and quizzes. They are weighted as follows:
The section part of your grade reflects your overall level of participation in recitation and tutorial as well as a series of weekly hands-on projects that support recitation. Section instructors will base at least half of the evaluation on your communication skills: oral communication skills as observed in recitation paper discussions in class and written communication skills as evaluated by your instructor and your teaching assistant. The remainder of your section grade is based on the quality and enthusiasm of your participation, your understanding of the papers, and on whether you handed in the assignments, since the exercises aid your ability to discuss the papers.
During most weeks, you will be expected to complete a hands-on experiment that requires a computer, usually an Athena workstation, and sometimes using the Web. The idea is to reinforce some of the abstract concepts from the lectures or papers that week and find out how things really work. These assignments generally do not require programming.
The final result of each of the two design projects will be an extended paper in which you describe a detailed system design to solve a real-world problem. There will be two design projects, each of which will extend over roughly half the semester. The first will be an individual project; the second will be done in teams of three students from the same recitation.
The first design paper will be forwarded to the Communication Program and graded on writing, as described in the section on writing requirements.
One of the teaching assistants' primary roles is to tie the design projects into the topics covered in lectures and recitations. On most Fridays, they will be teaching "tutorials" to explain the design projects' requirements and some of the tradeoffs inherent in the projects. Like lectures and recitations, these tutorials are mandatory. Students are also welcome to ask questions about the design projects during TA office hours.
A couple of weeks into each design project, you'll be asked to hand in a short design proposal. We'll evaluate this to make sure you're on the right track and to suggest writing improvements, but it will only count against the project grade if you fail to hand it in. We'll also discuss common mistakes during tutorial. Both design project proposals will be forwarded to the writing program, and be graded according to the description in the writing requirements section.
Two quizzes are held during the term. A third quiz (1.5 hours in length) will be scheduled during finals week. Each quiz will focus on a third of the class's material, but keep in mind that later topics in 6.033 build heavily upon the earlier topics. The quizzes count as follows: 12.5% quiz 1, 12.5% quiz 2, and 15% quiz 3.
Please note well: Although the formula to calculate your final 6.033 grade appears to be linear, there are some important non-linearities in the calculation. These non-linearities are the three ways in which you can be sure of getting an F in 6.033:
Our policy is simple, based on professional standards: on quizzes you should not collaborate. On all other assignments you are welcome to work with anyone else on ideas and understanding, but your writing should be your own and you should carefully acknowledge all contributions of ideas by others, whether from classmates or from papers you have read.
MIT faculty and department members believe that students in any field should learn to write prose that is clear, organized, and eloquent, and to marshal facts and ideas into convincing written and oral presentations.
MIT implemented the Communication Requirement in 2000 in response to alumni feedback. Alumni said that they had received an outstanding technical education at MIT but needed more training in writing and speaking to succeed in their professional careers.
The 6.033 faculty have worked with the MIT Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program for more than 10 years to design 6.033 writing and speaking assignments. We have chosen assignments that are similar to the kinds of writing you will do in the engineering workplace: memos, proposals, design reports, and design presentations.
To assist you in preparing for the written assignments, several of the Friday tutorials will focus on communication instruction. At these recitations, you will receive advice on how to write your one-page assignments, Design Project 1 proposal, and Design Project 1 from a Writing Recitation instructor. Attendance to the writing recitations will be included in your final overall recitation grade.
Your Writing Recitation instructor will comment on and grade four of your written assignments:
The grades assigned by the writing program will follow the descriptions given here.
The Therac-25 writing grade will not be factored into the average for the writing component of your grade. Your 6.033 writing grade will be calculated as follows:
|Attendance (writing sessions, appointments)||20%|
|Therac-25 paper (one-pager 1)||Grade noted, but not calculated in average|
|X-Windows paper (one-pager 2)||20%|
|DP1 full paper||40%|
If your average writing grade is below a B, your final grade for 6.033 will be reduced by 1 letter grade.
With permission of your Writing Recitation instructor, you may revise your assignments to improve your grade. If you miss agreed appointments with your instructor, your revisions may not be accepted.