Spring 2013

General Information

MIT catalog description

Prereq.: 6.004 and 6.02
U (2)

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. Students engage in extensive written communication exercises. Enrollment may be limited. 4 Engineering Design Points.

6.033 Curricular Goals Map gives a dynamic graphical display connecting the class outcomes with the outcomes of other subjects in the Course 6 curriculum.

Underground Reviews (require an MIT personal certificate): 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991


For announcements and assignments, the Web is our authoritative form of communication. We expect students to check the 6.033 home page and schedule for both news and assignments regularly, every couple of days. If you hear a rumor, check it there.

MIT Web Certificates

Access to a number of documents on the course web site is restricted to its students, using MIT Web Certificates. Protected documents include some of the reading materials with copyright restrictions, and the recitation/tutorial assignments.

Grading Policy

Your final 6.033 grade will have the following components:

15%DP1 Report
15%DP2 Report
30%Recitation Section Participation and Assignments
10%Writing Tutorial Participation, Design project 1 memo, Design project 1 proposal, Design project 2 presentation.

Note that over a third of your grade comes from written assignments: we expect you to take writing seriously in this class.

Section Evaluation

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.

A portion of your grade will also be based on your participation in writing tutorials and on your understanding of communication concepts and skills, as demonstrated by your work on the design projects and evaluated by your communication instructor.

Design Projects

Two design projects require you to develop a detailed system design to solve a real-world problem. Each project 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 project will involve a brief memo-form proposal, a longer design proposal, and an extended report. The second project will include an executive summary, an oral presentation, and an extended report.

The proposal for design project 1 will be graded by both your TA instructor and your communication instructor. Your Communication Instructor will evaluate it according to the grading rubric and assign a grade. Your TA will evaluate the proposal to make sure your design is on the right track and assign a grade of check-/check/check+ that will factor into your final DP1 grade. Your TA will also discuss common mistakes during tutorial.

One of the teaching assistants' primary roles is to tie the design projects into the topics covered in lectures and recitations. On some 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 required. Students are also welcome to ask questions about the design projects during TA office hours.

You must turn in both design projects in order to pass 6.033. If you have not turned in either of the two design projects, you will automatically receive an F.

Communication Tutorials

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. Communication assignments are designed to help you conceptualize and develop the design project.

Several of the Friday recitations will teach the communication theory and practices of this course, and assist you in preparing for the assignments. At these recitations, you'll become fluent in a variety of communication genres, develop strategies and skills needed to present technical concepts to different audiences, learn how to use writing to develop and deepen your technical understanding--and get specific, directed instruction on writing and presenting your 6.033 assignments.

Your communication instructor will give feedback and assign a grade on two of your written assignments: the DP1 memo and the DP1 proposal. Your CI instructor will also meet with you to give feedback and work to revise your DP2 presentation. Communication grades will be assigned according to a set of criteria that will be provided as a part of each assignment. Attendance to the writing recitations will be included in your grade.

According to the Communication Requirement webpage 6.033 satisfies CI-M for Course 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6P, and 18-C. If you are not in these programs, 6.033 does not satisfy the CI-M requirement for you.


One quiz is held during the term. A second quiz (1.5 hours in length) will be scheduled during finals week. Each quiz will focus on a half 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 15% each.

Late Policy

You must hand in assignments when they are due, and you must attend quizzes at the scheduled times. If you feel you have a compelling reason for not handing in an assignment on time, or for not attending a quiz, please talk to your recitation instructor or one of the lecturers in advance. If you miss an assignment deadline, you should still hand in the assignment; we'll give you feedback even though we won't give you credit for your final grade. Furthermore, doing assignments is the best way to prepare for exams and design projects.


You may not collaborate on quizzes. On all other assignments you are welcome to discuss ideas with others, but your writing should be your own and you should acknowledge all contributions of ideas by others, whether from classmates or from papers you have read.

Class meetings

Lectures will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00pm-3:00pm in 32-123. Recitations are on typically Tuesdays (for group A) and Thursdays (group B). Friday sessions will usually be tutorials, but we use some of the Friday hours for lectures by the staff of the M.I.T. Communication Program, and some for quizzes. See the schedule for the exact dates of these events.

Session Time Location Instructor
Lecture MW2-3 32-123 Kaashoek and Katabi
Writing Program Recitations see schedule see schedule Unger, Stickgold-Sarah, Volaitis, Sutliff, Schoenstein, Jackson, Delaney, Melvold
Recitation TR, section dependent section dependent Chlipala, Devadas, Rudolph, Shavit, Strauss, van Dijk
Tutorial F, section dependent section dependent Benitez, Dehnert, Kumar, Li, Simosa, Thomson, Wang

These four types of sessions are all required. For the first recitation, attend whichever one you want. After that, you will be assigned a permanent recitation.

For details about your recitation and tutorial time and place, consult the recitation and tutorial assignments.


E-Mail Office Telephone  
Frans Kaashoek 32-G992 x3-7149
Dina Katabi 32-G936 x4-6027
E-Mail Office Telephone  
Marten van Dijk NA NA
Adam Chlipala 32-G842 x4-8439
Srini Devadas 32-G844 x3-0454
Larry Rudolph 32-G868 x3-6562
Nir Shavit 32-G622 x4-8840
Jacob Strauss XXX XXX
Teaching assistants
Office hours are held weekly in the locations listed below.
E-Mail Location Office Hours
Sergio Benitez 24-320 R7
Alex Dehnert 34-302 M4
Swarun Kumar 24-320 W3
Frank Li 24-320 F3
Jorge Simosa 24-322 R3
Alec Thomson 24-322 T4
Xi Wang 24-308 T7
Writing program
E-Mail Office Telephone  
Donald Unger 12-112 x3-3039
Jessie Stickgold-Sarah 12-112 x3-3039
Lydia Volaitis 12-112 x3-3039
Linda Sutliff 12-112 x3-3039
Juergen Schoenstein 12-117 TBD
Nora Jackson 14N-432 617-452-3597
Tom Delaney TBD TBD
Janis Melvold 14N-322 617-715-5193

Course staff mailing list: . Use this mailing list to contact all the 6.033 staff members.

Questions or comments regarding 6.033? Send e-mail to the 6.033 staff at or to the 6.033 TAs at .

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