Official course description, subject to change:

Preliminary info last published 8/12-23
Course info
ECTS points:
Course code:
Participants max:
Offered to guest students:
Offered to exchange students:
Offered as a single subject:
Price for EU/EEA citizens (Single Subject):
10625 DKK
MSc. Master
MSc in Software Design
Course manager
Associate Professor
Course semester
Efterår 2024
26 August 2024
27 December 2024
Exam type
ekstern censur
Grade Scale
Exam Language

This hands-on course teaches you how the design, implementation, and implications, of systems software influence your task as an application programmer. You will get an in-depth understanding of how hardware and the operating system work; in the process, you will learn how computers actually work, and what actually happens when you run an application. This enables you to fully exploit underlying hardware and systems software to write high-quality software.


Behind every running application, there is systems software: software that provides a platform for other software. Examples include operating systems, scientific computing software, game engines, industrial control systems, and software as a service (SaaS). To write quality software that is e.g. correct, high performance, energy efficient, and exploiting hardware features, an application developer must understand how systems software affects the behavior and performance of applications---they must understand the design, implementation, and implications, of systems software.

In this course, you study the most important systems software, using the most important systems programming language: Operating Systems, and C. You gain a deeper understanding of hardware, how it runs software at the lowest level (Assembly), and how high-level (C) code compiles (gcc) to low-level machine code. You get hands-on experience with the compilation process, build automation (make), and with debugging machine code (gdb). Finally, using C, you gain hands-on experience with buffer overflow vulnerabilities, high-performance programming utilizing compiler optimizations and hardware features (e.g. SIMD and multithreading), and with system calls (e.g. file- and network I/O). To facilitate this, you will learn about the three fundamental computer system abstractions (interpreter, memory, communication), the fundamental operating system concepts (processes, virtual memory, files), other key systems concepts (caching, pointers, stack, heap, interrupt signals, file systems, concurrency), and how to use an operating system (shell, scripting, command-line, process management, etc.).

By taking this course, you gain a deep understanding of how computers work. This understanding is crucial for pursuing a career in writing quality software for top software companies, for embedded systems programming, and for programming cloud-based big data systems (think Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, etc.). Students who have the ambition to contribute to the Linux kernel, or to other open-source projects, will gain a strong foundation for that in this course.

Ultimately, the goal is to enable you to fully exploit underlying hardware and systems software to write high-quality software.

Formal prerequisites

Before taking this course, you must

  • Have experience with an imperative programming language.

This requirement can be satisfied by taking an introductory programming course on e.g. Java, C#, Python, JavaScript, C, or C++.

Intended learning outcomes

After the course, the student should be able to:

  • Read, write and debug C programs in a shell-environment
  • Interpret how C programs execute on a computer system
  • Describe basic system programming concepts in C (I/Os, network programming, concurrent programming)
  • Reflect on the impact of hardware, operating system and compilation process on application programs
  • Design and implement cache efficient matrix multiplication
Ordinary exam
Exam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
Exam variation:
C11: Submission of written work