Great Ideas in Computer Architecture (Machine Structures)

UC Berkeley EECS

TuTh 8:00-9:30am, 150 Wheeler

Instructors: Randy Katz, Krste Asanovic

Great Ideas in Computer Architecture (Machine Structures)

UC Berkeley EECS

TuTh 8:00-9:30am, 150 Wheeler

Instructors: Randy Katz, Krste Asanovic

Course Policies/About

Official Academic Guide course description.

The subjects covered in this course include: C and assembly language programming, translation of high-level programs into machine language, computer organization, caches, performance measurement, parallelism, CPU design, warehouse-scale computing, and related topics.

Prerequisites: CS61A and CS61B (or equivalents). CS61B requirement can be bypassed if you have solid experience with a C-based programming language.


P&H We will be using the first edition of Patterson and Hennessy's Computer Organization and Design RISC-V Edition book ("P&H"), ISBN 0128122757.
K&R We are also requiring The C Programming Language, Second Edition by Kernighan and Ritchie ("K&R"), and will reference its sections in the reading assignments. Other books are also suitable if you are already comfortable with them, but our lectures will be based on K&R.
WSC Finally, we will be using The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines ("WSC"), which is freely available online here.

Computer Resources

Discussion Forum

All important course announcements will be made on Piazza. Be sure to join here:

Computer Accounts

You will need a CS61C class account for use in the computer labs, submitting assignments, and tracking your grades. You must request a class login via Make sure you remember your log-in information once you change it! We cannot recover your account information for you.

Computer Labs

We will be using a combination of 275 Soda, 277 Soda, and 330 Soda this semester. You will be receiving 24/7 key card access to these labs, but please be mindful of the fact that we share these lab spaces with other CS classes. In addition, please respect the labs by keeping things neat and avoid eating/drinking near the computers.

You can connect remotely to the lab computers using the following addresses:


In order to foster a collaborative environment, CS61C is graded on a fixed scale. The course is graded out of 300 points, with the following mappings from points to letter grades:

Raw Score 290+ [270,290) [260,270) [250,260) [230,250) [220,230) [210,220) [190,210) [180,190) [140,180) [0,140)
Grade A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D F

In the event that our distribution does not align with the EECS departmental guidelines, we may decrease the raw score boundaries, but they will not increase (i.e. it is possible to receive a higher grade than the mapping suggests, but not a lower one).

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

Assignment Percentage of Grade
EPA: Effort, Participation, and Altruism 5% (15 points)
Labs 10% (30 points)
Homework 5% (15 points)
Projects (5 total) 25% (75 points)
Midterm I 15% (45 points)
Midterm II 15% (45 points)
Final 30% (90 points)
Below, you will find sections describing some of these assignment types.


You can earn "extra credit" points for each of the following:

Effort: Attending office hours and discussions. Keeping up with Piazza.
Participation: Interacting with TAs and other students in discussion and lab, asking questions on Piazza.
Altruism: Helping others in lab and on Piazza.

Because you must be truly exceptional to receive full credit in any one EPA category, it is very difficult to receive a full EPA score. TAs will reward students where credit is due. EPA scores are kept internal to the course staff (i.e. not disclosed to students).

Peer Instruction/i>clickers

We will not be using iClickers in this iteration of CS61C.


Labs are designed to give you weekly introductory experience with the course material. After completing each lab, you will need to show your understanding of the lab to your TA or Lab Assistant by stepping through the checkoff steps with him or her. You are required to attend the lab in which you are enrolled, but you are free to attend any discussion section you prefer. However, it's recommended that your discussion TA is the same as your lab TA so that they have a better relationship with you and thus can award you with more EPA points than if you were to split your interactions among multiple TAs.

Labs are graded on correct completion. Completion of all labs is highly recommended for success in the course. Each of the 13 labs are graded out of 2 points. Please note that these are not 2 points each from the 30 points "Labs" portion in your course grade. Each lab is simply graded out of 2 points, and we will scale the 26 points lab total up to the 30 points course grade portion.

In each lab, we will maintain two queues: a checkoff queue and a help queue. The checkoff queue is strictly for students who completed the entire lab, and are confident in their results/checkoff answers. Ideally, checkoffs should be quick and efficient. The help queue is for students who need help completing the lab. Please do not use the checkoff queue to request help, even if it is shorter. You will only have one official checkoff attempt, as mentioned below.

You are required to work in partners for labs. For full credit, labs must be checked off before/during the first half-hour of the lab after they were assigned. You can turn in late labs for half credit if you get them checked off the lab section after they were due.

Lab checkoff policy TL;DR:
Labs are due for full points by the next lab session (which is 1 week after the lab was assigned). If they’re another week late, then you get half credit. Any later than that and it’s 0 points. You can always ask for help on the lab, but you can only asked to be checked off once. If you asked to be checked off and you don’t pass the checkoff, you’ll get 0 points.

In more detail, here is the exact policy on checkoffs and point allocations: The day that lab X is assigned...

  • You will receive 2 points if you get lab X checked off.
  • You will receive 2 points if you get lab X-1 checked off within the first half-hour of lab.
  • You will receive 1 point if you get lab X-2 checked off within the first hour of lab.
  • You will receive 0 points if you attempt to get a lab checked off, but fail to show understanding of the lab.
  • Note: You will only have one attempt to check off any lab.

In summary, here is a table to illustrate the checkoff grading policy.

Checking off a lab... 100% Understanding? Grade
The day it is assigned Yes 2/2
The day it is assigned No 0/2 (only one chance)
One lab after, within first half-hour Yes 2/2 (only one chance)
One lab after, not within first half-hour Yes 1/2 (only one chance, this is slightly late)
One lab after No 0/2 (only one chance)
Two labs after, within first half-hour Yes 1/2 (only one chance, this is slightly late)
Two labs after, not within first half-hour Yes 0/2 (this is too late)
Two labs after No 0/2 (only one chance)
Three labs or more after -- 0/2 (this is too late, encouraged to finish, use help queue)

The staff recommends always asking for help on labs when you need it, and to only request a check off when you have thought about the lab sufficiently and can have an informed conversation with your TA. You won't immediately fail a checkoff if you make a small mistake; in this scenario, your TA might correct your small misunderstanding, and if you can quickly bounce back with the correct solution, you'll be fine.

Lastly, once your checkoff is complete, your TA or Lab Assistant will immediately enter your points. Your score should instantly be reflected on glookup. Please verify the moment you finish your checkoff. The staff is not liable for missing checkoff points.

Lab Section Swap Policy

As you may know, we've made it clear that we want your lab section TA to be your project TA, and thus your project partner should be your lab partner. We understand that many of you wish to swap lab sections in order to be in the same lab as your partner. Here's how we're going to regulate such a process:

  • Try your best to officially enroll in the lab you wish to switch to by going to CalCentral and clicking "Options" and then specify that you want to switch lab sections. If successful, you're good to go!
  • If you can't officially enroll, first fill out this Lab Swap Google Form
  • Your head TA will be keeping track of any labs that he can tell are going to be extremely packed. If he emails you telling you that you should not go to the lab you requested to swap into, then go to the lab you're officially enrolled in. Otherwise, if you get no email, assume it is fine to attend the lab section you want to swap into. Your lab TA will be expecting you.
  • The lab TA has every right to ask students who aren't enrolled to leave the lab if it gets overcrowded. If you don't fill out the form and go to a lab section you're not enrolled in, the TA will ask you to leave first.


Homework is designed to give you more problem practice on the week's material. We encourage you to work on the homework problems in small groups, but each student is required to turn in a solution that they have written themselves.

Homework is done online via edX and is graded on correct completion. Once again, completion of all HW is highly recommended. We will release homework solutions shortly after the due date, so late homework is not accepted.

Though most homeworks will give you unlimited attempts, some will not. In particular, some homeworks will contain multiple choice questions with limited attempts. These questions will mention that they are limited, so please read all questions thoroughly before attempting.


Projects are designed to give you heavy-duty experience with the application of course content. Projects are graded on correctness.

You will work on projects in groups of two (you and a partner). Collaborating with students outside of your group is strictly prohibited. Please see the section on Academic Dishonesty below.

For each day that a project is late, 1/3 of your earned points on the project are deducted, until the project is worth nothing. Lateness rounds up to the nearest day - that is, an assignment that is 2 hours late is one day late.

Slip Days

To help you handle any issues that arise, we give you three slip-day tokens, which allow you to reduce your late penalties on late submissions.
Example usages:

  • Use two slip-days to receive no penalty on a project submitted two days late
  • Use two slip-days to receive no penalty for two separate projects each submitted one day late
  • Use three slip-days to receive just a 1/3 penalty on a project submitted 4 days late
We will track the total number of late days for your submissions and then assign your slip-days at the end of the semester to maximize your course score!

Slip-days may only be applied towards projects, and not any other assignments. Slip-days will not be assessed against projects you did not submit. No extra credit is awarded for avoiding the use of slip-days, however it is in your best interest to avoid turning projects in late. Usually, a new project will be released very shortly after the current project is due.


  • Midterm 1: In-class exam. Covers up to and including the 09/19 lecture on CALL.
  • Midterm 2: In-class exam. Covers up to and including the 10/24 lecture on Performance, Floating Point, and Tech Trends.
  • Final: An accumulation of all topics covered in the course.

On each exam, you will be given a MIPS Green Sheet attached to the exam. Additionally, you will be allowed to bring handwritten or typed cheat sheets as indicated below:

  • Midterm 1: One 8.5"x11", double-sided cheat sheet.
  • Midterm 2: One 8.5"x11", double-sided cheat sheet.
  • Final: Three 8.5"x11", double-sided cheat sheets (it is recommended that you re-use your cheat sheets from the two midterms).

The "Clobber" Policy

There will be no clobber policy in this iteration of CS61C.

Academic Dishonesty and Cheating

Please carefully read the policies below and ask a member of the course staff if you have any questions or if something is unclear.

  • All projects will be done with a partner.
  • All projects you turn in must be the work of your team and your team ALONE.
  • Partner teams MAY NOT work with other partner teams on projects.
  • It is NOT acceptable to copy solutions from other students.
  • It is NOT acceptable to copy (or start your) solutions from the Internet.
  • It is NOT acceptable to use public GitHub archives to obtain solutions or to store your project code.
  • We have tools and methods, developed over many years, for detecting this. You WILL be caught, and the penalties WILL be severe. This software can even detect attempts to purposefully obfuscate copying.
  • If you are caught you will receive at the minimum an F in the course and a letter on your university record documenting the incidence of cheating.
  • Both the giver and the receiver of code are equally culpable and suffer equal penalties.

Disabled Students' Program

The Disabled Students' Program (DSP) is committed to ensuring that all students with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities at UC Berkeley. 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 be granted through official documentation from DSP. Please start the process at 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 instructors in office hours or via e-mail or private Piazza 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 contacting the Campus Ombuds Office or the ASUC Student Advocate's Office (SAO).