Syllabus and general information for MCS-287: Organization and Theory of Programming Languages (Spring 2000)
Throughout your computer science education, you work with programming
languages. But in this course, the programming languages themselves
will be our object of study. Because any two real programming
languages usually differ from one another in several unrelated ways,
which makes systematic comparison difficult, we'll instead use a
"variations on a theme" approach for our study. However, the
principles we learn will be important precisely because they are the
same ones that shape real languages -- of the future as well as the
past. Our primary tool for understanding languages will be writing
programs that operate on other programs, including interpreters that
carry out the computations that programs specify.
I will be available in my office (OHS 303) on Tuesdays from 10:30 to
11:20, on Wednesdays
from 11:30 to 12:20, on Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:20 (except March 9), on Fridays from
2:30 to 3:20 (except March 10), and by appointment. You may send me electronic mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at extension
7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my
web page, so check
there if in doubt.
World Wide Web
All course materials will be available through my World Wide Web page.
The URL for this course is http://www.gustavus.edu/~max/courses/S2000/MCS-287/.
After this syllabus I will give hardcopy handouts only to those
students who want them.
You should have taken both MCS-178 and MCS-236 prior to this course.
I expect that you can program in Scheme and are comfortable with
recursion, higher-order programming, data abstraction, and inductive
Text and readings
The textbook for this course is Essentials of Programming
Languages by Friedman, Wand, and Haynes. I will be
distributing a newer version of chapter 6 to those with older
printings of the book and a chapter 13 (which was not included in the
In this course, there is an important distinction between lab
assignments and lab days. Lab assignments are longer, more coherent
programming assignments than the homework assignments. Lab days are
class periods we will spend working in the computer lab. However, you
may spend lab days working on homework as well as lab assignments.
And you will definitely need to work on the lab assignments on your
own, not just on the lab days.
Attendance is mandatory for all lab days, unless you have already
turned in all homework and lab assignments that have been distributed.
I will excuse up to three absences per student, for any reason. Use
yours wisely. If you exceed this allowance, I may reduce your course
grade by one letter grade.
Students are encouraged to discuss the course, including issues raised
by the assignments. However, the solutions to assignments
should be individual original work unless otherwise specified. If an
assignment makes you realize you don't understand the material, ask a
fellow student a question designed to improve your understanding,
not one designed to get the assignment done. To do otherwise is to
cheat yourself out of understanding, as well as to be intolerably
Any substantive contribution to your solution by another person or
taken from a publication should be properly acknowledged in writing.
Failure to do so is plagiarism and will necessitate disciplinary
The same standards regarding plagiarism apply to team projects as to
the work of individuals, except that the author is now the entire team
rather than an individual. Anything taken from a source outside the
team should be be properly cited.
One additional issue that arises from the team authorship of
project reports is that all team members must stand behind all reports
bearing their names. All team members have quality assurance
responsibility for the entire project. If there is irreconcilable
disagreement within the team it is necessary to indicate as much in
the reports; this can be in the form of a ``minority opinion'' or
``dissenting opinion'' section where appropriate.
Homework assignment policy
I will assign a collection of homework problems for each chapter.
Many of the homework problems will be programming problems, which you
should check using a computer. A few will be problems that call for
thinking and writing, rather than programming.
You may turn in any homework problem whenever you think you have it
solved. I will return it to you as quickly as I can, but normally
with only an indication of whether it is acceptable or needs more
work. (Sometimes I may give a brief indication of what area it needs
more work in.) If a problem needs more work, and you aren't sure what
sort of work it still needs, you should treat that as an invitation to
come talk with me about it. Once you've done the additional work, you
may turn the problem in again. In fact, you may turn in each problem
in as many times as you like, until it is marked as acceptable. Your
grade for the homework portion of the course will be based on the
fraction of homework problems that you eventually did acceptably.
Normally homework problems may be turned in at any time. However, if
the class is not being responsible, and it looks like I may be faced
with a flood of problems at the end of the semester, I may set due
dates (always at least a week in the future). Also, if we would
benefit from discussing a homework problem in class, I may issue a
"last call" for solutions to that problem (again, at least a week in
Unless I indicate that a particular problem must be done individually,
you may work on any problem in a group of two or three students. Any
solution produced by such a team should be turned in only once, with
all team members names on it. Write "we all contributed fairly to
this solution" and have all team members sign under that statement.
Late lab assignments
All lab assignments are due at the beginning of class on
the day indicated. Late assignments will be penalized by one ``grade
notch'' (such as A to A- or A- to B+) for each weekday late or fraction
thereof. However, no late assignments will be accepted after graded
assignments are handed back.
If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you
will not be penalized. Simply write ``late due to illness'' at the
top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in. Other circumstances
will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Please point out any arithmetic or clerical error I make in grading,
and I will gladly fix it. You may also request reconsideration if I
have been especially unjust.
The course components will contribute to your grade in the following
However, I reserve the right to
subjectively adjust your final grade. Please see me if you have any
question how you stand. Class participation is not graded; however,
it allows you to find and repair the gaps in your understanding before
doing the assignments, and thus can dramatically improve your grade.
You are responsible for all course material, whether or not you are
present when it was covered or distributed.
- Test 1: 15%
- Test 2: 15%
- Final exam: 20%
- Homework: 26% (based on fraction done: see above)
- Labs: 24% (4 @ 6% each)
All assignments should be readily readable, and should
not presuppose that I already know what you are trying to say. Use
full English sentences where appropriate (namely almost everywhere)
and clear diagrams, programs, etc. Remember that your goal is to
communicate clearly, and that the appearance of these technical items
plays a role in this communication process. Be sure your assignments
are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.
Please contact me immediately if you have a learning or physical
disability requiring accommodation.
This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material.
However, don't be shocked if I have to pass out one or more revised
|2/8||2.1-2.2||Inductively specified data, recursion||
|2/10||2.3||Scope, names, lexical depth||
|2/15||3.4-3.5||Records, data abstraction||
|2/24||4.3||Reduction strategies||Lab 1
|2/29||4.4||Recursion in the lambda calculus||
|3/16||5.1||Simple interpreter, parsing||Lab 2
|4/6||6.1-6.2||Call by reference||
|4/10||6.3||Call by value/result||
|4/14||6.5||Call by name||
|5/2||13.2||More type constructors||
Course web site: http://www.gac.edu/~max/courses/S2000/MCS-287/
Instructor: Max Hailperin <email@example.com>