Spring 2015

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. One design project. 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): 2014, 2013, 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 be determined by your participation in the recitations and writing tutorials, a design project and its related assignments, and two quizzes.

10%Paper critiques, writing tutorial participation
10%DP proposal, DP presentation
20%DP report
30%Recitation Section Participation and Assignments (including hands-ons)

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 project and evaluated by your communication instructor.

Design Project

The design project requires you to develop a detailed system design to solve a real-world problem. This project will extend over roughly two thirds of the semester, and will be done in teams of three students from the same recitation. The project will involve a design proposal, an oral presentation, and an extended report. The feedback we give on your proposal and presentation will aid in writing your final report.

The proposal for the design project will be graded by your Recitation Instructor and your Communication Instructor. Your Communication Instructor will evaluate it according to the grading rubric and assign a letter grade. Your Recitation Instructor will evaluate the proposal to make sure your design is on the right track; you should incorporate their feedback into the presentation and report. Your TA will also discuss common mistakes during tutorial.

One of the teaching assistants' primary roles is to tie the design project into the topics covered in lectures and recitations. On some Fridays, they will be teaching tutorials to explain the design project's requirements and some of the tradeoffs inherent in the project. Like lectures and recitations, these tutorials are required. Students are also welcome to ask questions about the design project during TA office hours.

The presentations and reports will both be graded by your Recitation Instructor. Your presentation should reflect the feedback you got on your proposal; feedback on your presentation should inform your final report.

You must turn in the design project report in order to pass 6.033. If you have not turned it in, you will automatically receive an F.

Paper Critiques

One of the goals of 6.033 is for students to be able to analyze and critique technical papers. We will assign three paper critiques during the semester. Each will be between one and three pages long.

These critiques will be graded by your TAs and Communication Instructors, and assigned a grade of check/check plus/check minus. The expectations for each individual critique will be detailed in the tutorials. As your skills at analyzing and reading technical papers mprove throughout the semester, we will expect your critiques to reflect that.

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 half of the class's material, but keep in mind that later topics in 6.033 build heavily upon the earlier topics. The quizzes will test material from lectures, recitations, and the assigned reading. 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 project. Unless otherwise specified, assignments are due at 5pm on their assigned due-date (hands-ons are due at 11:59pm).


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 26-100. Recitations are on typically Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday sessions will usually be tutorials, but we use some of the Friday hours for lectures by the staff of the MIT. Communication Program, and some for quizzes. See the schedule for the exact dates of these events.

Session Time Location Instructor
Lecture MW2-3 26-100 LaCurts, Balakrishnan
Writing Program Recitations see schedule see schedule TBD
Recitation TR, section dependent section dependent Arvind, Day, Katabi, Madden, Rinard, Sollins, Szolovits
Tutorial F, section dependent section dependent Finch, Goehring, Goyal, Horn, Long, Naik, Nguyen, Ousterhout, Yan

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  
Katrina LaCurts 38-587 x3-5994
Hari Balakrishnan 32-G940 x5-8713
E-Mail Office  
Arvind 32-G866
Mark Day
Dina Katabi 32-G936
Samuel Madden 32-G938
Martin Rinard 32-G828
Karen Sollins 32-G818
Peter Szolovits 32-254
Teaching assistants
Office hours are held weekly in the locations listed below.
E-Mail Location Office Hours
Ellen Finch 32-G9 lounge Monday, 1pm-2pm
David Goehring 32-G9 lounge Friday, 4pm-5pm
Ameesh Goyal 32-G982 Wednesday, 1pm-2pm
Webb Horn 32-G9 lounge Tuesday, 3pm-4pm
Qian Long 32-G9 lounge Tuesday, 4pm-5pm
Manali Naik 32-G9 lounge Wednesday, 11am-12pm
Andrew Nguyen 32-G9 lounge Thursday, 3pm-4pm
Amy Ousterhout 32-G982 Wednesday, 3pm-4pm
Cong Yan 32-G9 lounge Tuesday, 5pm-6pm
Writing program
E-Mail Office  
Jared Berezin E39-372
Amy Carleton E39-378
Amelia Herb E39-368
Nora Jackson 14N-432
Janis Melvold 14N-322
Juergen Schoenstein E39-377
Jessie Stickgold-Sarah E39-370
Linda Sutliff E39-368
Michael Trice mtrice at mit.edu E39-370

Course staff contact: To contact the course staff, please use Piazza unless you need to email a staff member individually. You can post a private question on Piazza if you do not want your communication to be visible to the other students in the class.

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

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