Computer Systems from the Ground Up


Welcome to prospective students of CS107E Fall Quarter 2022!

If you are interested in taking CS107E in the Fall 2022 quarter, please fill in this application form.

What is CS107/CS107E? What topics do these courses cover?

CS107 is the second systems course in Stanford’s undergraduate core sequence and introduces students to computer systems focusing on these five fundamental concepts: hardware, architecture, assembly code, the C language, and software development tools. Our classic CS107 course teaches these concepts on a hosted Linux system using standard libraries and tools. The alternative CS107E explores the same concepts through bare-metal programming on the Raspberry Pi using hardware add-ons such as LEDs, buttons, and sensors.

Both versions of CS107 cover the C programming language, data representation, machine-level code, computer arithmetic, compilation, memory organization and management, program execution, debugging, and performance. CS107 has light coverage of floating point and computer security that CS107E does not. CS107E includes topics in hardware and I/O that CS107 does not.

What are the differences between CS107 and CS107E? How do I determine which course is right for me?

CS107 and C107E are considered two embodiments of the same course. They both cover the same core concepts and assign significant programming projects in C and assembly. Both promote effective development and testing through use of good engineering practices and developer tools. Either course satisfies the requirement for the CS major or minor and serves as a prerequisite for follow-on systems courses.

The major difference is the system being explored. CS107 students work on Linux running on the x86 architecture. This modern, hosted system provides the advantages of sophisticated libraries and tools, but it puts you at arms’ length away from the hardware (no direct access to processor, I/O, or framebuffer). CS107E runs bare-metal (no OS or libraries) on a Raspberry PI ARM architecture. There is nothing standing between you and the hardware, but the environment is somewhat more primitive and edit/compile/debug must be done via cross-system tools.

Here are a few other issues you may want to consider in comparing the two:

Whether you take CS107 or CS107E, you’ll learn how a computer system operates and work hard to gain mastery over these topics and advance from a novice programmer to an effective practitioner. Students who do well in either course are excellently positioned to apply these powerful skills to future CS, EE, or ME projects!

This course can accommodate at most 30 students and we must settle enrollment commitments in advance so students can be certain about their schedules. The appplication process is a lightweight questionnaire and selection is focused on identifying a good "fit" between you and the course. Priority is given to freshmen and sophomores. See above for instructions and deadlines.

What equipment will I need to participate in CS107E?

When/how are lectures and labs delivered? Is attendance required?

Fall Quarter 2022 lectures meet Monday and Friday 1:30pm-3:20pm. We use lecture time to cover highly relevant content. Lecture attendance is expected: consistent attendance and active participation are highly correlated with student success and we want you to have this optimal experience! (An ode to “did I miss anything?”). We may record lectures for students with special cases (e.g., COVID isolation), but in general, lecture videos will not be provided.

Fall Quarter 2022 labs meet Wednesday 10:30am-12:30pm and Wednesday 1:30pm-3:30pm. Participation in lab is mandatory, and you must be able to attend one of those two times. During lab, you will work on guided exercises in small groups with the support of the course staff. Lab is also an opportunity to build community with your peers, get to know the course staff, and have fun!

If your schedule doesn’t permit you to consistently attend lecture or lab, consider enrolling in CS107 instead or waiting to take CS107E in a future quarter.

What are the course prerequisites for CS107/CS107E?

Successful completion of CS106B (or equivalent) and eagerness to advance to the next level. You should be an accomplished programmer who has practical C/C++ skills using recursion, dynamic data structures (pointers, linked lists, trees), data abstraction, classic data structures (lists, stacks, queues, sets, maps), and standard algorithms (searching, sorting, hashing). You should have an appreciation of the intrinsic value of good engineering and design and you will be expected to produce well-decomposed, readable code. If you feel on the fence in determining your placement between CS106B and CS107(E), our strong recommendation is to pursue CS106B – we love this course! It is lots of fun, supremely well-taught, and produces thoughtful and accomplished apprentice programmers. You will exit CS106B well-prepared to go on to a satisfying and successful experience in CS107(E).

Still have questions?

If your question is not answered here, email us at cs107e@cs.stanford.edu and we can help you out!