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California State University Stanislaus

CS 4100-01: Programming Languages (WP)

Spring 2020

M W F 3:00 pm - 3:50 pm, Bizzini 214

Instructor: Dr. Megan Thomas

[Basic Information]        [Announcements]        [Calendar/Assignments]       [Links]

Welcome to CS 4100, Programming Languages

Course Description

This course will introduce you to the principles of the design, evaluation, and implementation of computer programming languages. As such it is not a crash course to teach you to program in a half dozen new dialects, although you will find learning new languages easier as a result of this study. Our emphasis will be on the kinds of features languages might have, how they influence a programmer's thought process, and how they may be implemented on a computer.

At this level of study, we will find that complex tradeoffs between language principles coupled with a variety of differing goals often can lead designers to radically different design decisions. There seems to be no single "right" way to design a programming language, no single language that is "right" for all applications. You will be asked to explore some of these tradeoffs through a series of writing assignments in which your thought process and ability to balance fairly many aspects of complex issues will often be more important than the conclusions you reach. Because of this subject matter and pedagogical approach, this course meets the University graduation requirement for Writing Proficiency, and you will need to have passed the University Writing Proficiency Screening Test before enrolling.

(The above paragraphs are from Dr. Ray Zarling's CS 4100 course description, with permission.)

Announcements and Upcoming Events

5/28/2020 "Programming languages: Developers reveal what they love and loathe, and what pays best", 28 May 2020,
5/18/2020 If you downloaded the final exam before Monday, there was a footnote in question 5.b. I removed the footnote and forgot to remove the little "2" referencing the now-gone footnote. (The footnote just included my source for the "country with the most/best/highest X" information - the Economist Pocket World World in Figures. 2018 edition, I think.)
5/18/2020 Examples of how to cite sources (ACM style) and create a bibliography - you can do no better than to download and examine a few recent papers published by SIGPLAN, the Special Interest Group on Programming Languages.

At the bottom of the SIGPLAN web page are links to papers of particular, recent interest to the professional programming languages community, such as "Confessions of a Used Programming Language Salesman: Getting the Masses Hooked on Haskell" (the programming language Haskell, and functional programming languages) or "A computational model for TensorFlow: an introduction" (machine learning from a programming languages point of view).

These papers cite their sources using the ACM reference style, which is one of the styles you, too, are welcome to use. (Just spell out the complete names of your sources, instead of abbreviating. Use "41st ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation" in your bibliography, instead of "PLDI '20".)

5/18/2020 I will be "sitting in" our class Zoom meeting during final exam time, and probably for a half-hour or more beforehand.
5/6/2020 Spring 2020 Grading Options - including instructions on how to change your grading options if you want.
4/20/2020 Emojicode, the all emoji programming language.
4/10/2020 Remember when we (briefly) talked about COBOL in class? "Our Government Runs on a 60-Year-Old Coding Language, and Now It's Falling Apart: Retired engineers are coming to the rescue," (, 7 Apr 2020) -- you never know when knowledge of old programming languages will be useful.
4/10/2020 Spring 2020-only Grading Policy Changes.
4/8/2020 Regarding trademark/copyright and "Happy Birthday", on 10 April 2013, the podcast "Stuff You Missed in History Class" released an episode on "The Story of 'Happy Birthday to You'.
I recommend the podcast. Good luck finding it; the official web site for the podcast is annoying.
4/3/2020 Here is the midterm.
A blank MSWord document is here if you want to use it.
When you are done with the midterm, upload your work to the CS Homework site.
(Password for midterm and blank document is the same as the lecture slide password.)
4/1/2020 Due to changes required by campus closure and moving alone, the grading policy for the semester has been revised. (See 'Grading and Policies' below for the new balance of graded components in the class.)
3/30/2020 Suggestions for document scanning apps:
CamScanner, Genius Scan, Adobe Scan
3/25/2020 COVID-19 class changes:
  • Participation and attendance "in class" will still be expected, as it has been throughout the semester.
  • Class sessions will be held via Zoom and other technologies, at the normal scheduled times -- Monday, Wednesday, Friday 3-3:50 pm. The week after Spring Break will be lecture/discussions (Zoom link is in the schedule.)
  • The lectures and chats will be recorded and made available to students in this class for a limited amount of time after the class day. For storage space and for privacy reasons, they will not be available all semester.
  • At some point during each class period, I will call roll, and all students present will type their own names into the Zoom chat window. This is evidence a student is paying attention on that day.
Tips for using less bandwidth to "attend" class: Turn off your webcam, mute your audio, reduce the size of the Zoom window.
These plans are experimental, and may be changed if they don't work as hoped.
3/16/2020 If you don't feel comfortable attending class that's week, that's fine by me. Just read the end of the Fortran chapter and the entire chapter on BNF with great care and attention to detail.
3/13/2020 "Memory and Storage", Timeline of Computer History, Computer History Museum. I draw your attention the RAMAC hard disk -- the world's first hard drive, with a whopping 5 megabytes of storage. Or the Apollo Guidance Computer memory -- hand-woven, storing 72 kilobytes. (To the moon and back, on 72 KB!)
2/24/2020 "Go Language Tops List of In-Demand Software Skills", IEEE Job Site, 18 Feb 2020.
1/23/2020 "Tech Professions Dominate Rankings of Best Jobs in the U.S.", IEEE Spectrum 'View from the Valley', 17 Jan 2020.
1/27/2020 Welcome to CS 4100!

Basic Information

Textbook is Principles of Programming Languages: Design, Evaluation, and Implementation (Third Edition), by Bruce J. MacLennan

Instructor: Dr. Megan Thomas
Office: Demergasso-Bava Hall 279

Web Page:

Best way to contact Dr. Thomas:   Email  Please put "CS4100" in the subject line of the email.

Prerequisite: Completion of the Writing Proficiency Screening Test with a passing score, and CS 3100.

Warning: I reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus at any time during the term by announcing them in class and on my web page.

Grading and Policies

Final grades will be based on projects and assignments, a term project and exams. A plus and minus grading scale wll be used to assign final grades. Except for designated collaborative activities in connection with the project, all writing and other work you present for credit must be entirely your own, or developed on your own in consultation with the course instructor or other Department faculty. Penalties for representing other people's work as your own will range from No Credit on an assignment through failure of the course and possible University disciplinary action. Over the course of the term we will discuss these issues in more detail, but it is your responsibility to seek clarification and understand the parameters involved. Your work may be electronically checked for plagiarism using

Projects and Assignments:  Homework will usually require you to organize you thoughts about some aspect of the material we are studying, and to write a carefully crafted and thoughtful paper. Some parts of your assignments will be used only for class discussion and not turned in, but usually they will be graded. In aggregate, all homework you turn in will comprise 30% of you final grade. Some of the questions will require problem solving or programming skills, but programming segments or other technical language will generally be in service of some larger point supported by prose arguments. Essays must be prepared on a word processor. Late assignments will be accepted unless you are notified otherwise, but will suffer a grading penalty dependent on the degree of lateness.

Term Project:  In addition to these assignments, you will be required to write a term project. Specific requirements and a timetable will be distributed early in the term. The final draft of the project will be due at the time normally scheduled for the final. It will not be accepted after that time. The project grade will be based upon earlier writing activities as well as the final product and will, in aggregate, count as 30% of your final course grade.

Submission of Projects and Assignments: All projects and assignments (unless otherwise stated) are to be turned as follows:
1. A hard copy is to be turned in at the beginning of class on the due date.
2. An electronic copy is to be uploaded to the CSHomework System ( by midnight on the due date.

Exams: There will be two exams given during the course of the semester, approximately in the sixth and the last weeks of the semester. The exact time of the exams will be announced a week in advance of each exam. Each exam will account for 20% of your final grade.
Grade Summary:
Projects and Assignments
Midterm Exam 15%
Term Project 30%
Final Exam
Participation 5%

(The above four paragraphs borrowed liberally from Dr. Ray Zarling's CS 4100 course description, with permission.)

Academic Honesty

The work you do for this course will be your own, unless otherwise specified. You are not to submit other people's work and represent it as your own. I consider academic honesty to be at the core of the University's activities in education and research. Academic honesty is expected at all times in this course.


Regular class attendance is expected; attendance for certain activities will be required. Students are responsible for all announcements and in-class discussion.

Cell Phone Policy

If you attempt to use your cell phone or leave it on during an exam, you will be considered to have finished your test, and I will collect your exam at that time. Exceptions may be made only if you discuss your situation with me prior to the start of that day's class.

Audio / Video Recording Policy

Audio or video recording (or any other form of recording) of classes is not permitted unless expressly allowed by the faculty member as indicated in the course syllabus or as a special accommodation for students who are currently registered with the Disability Resource Services Program and are approved for this accommodation. Recordings allowed as special accommodations are for the personal use of the DRS-approved student, and may only be distributed to other persons who have been approved by the DRS program. Faculty may require the student sign an Audio / Video Recording Agreement, which they may keep for their records.

University Writing Center

The Writing Center offers free individual and small group tutoring to students from all disciplines and at all levels of proficiency. Dedicated to encouraging dialogue among writers and helping students become successful writers, the Writing Center provides a supportive, judgment-free atmosphere in which tutors share strategies and experiences at each stage of the writing process. Graduate and undergraduate tutors are evolving writers who, through experience and training, continue to develop their abilities as tutors and writers.

The Writing Center website is located at

Phone: Writing Center: (209) 667-3465


Services and Support at CSU Stanislaus

Student Health Center
Health Center Building / 209-667-3396 /

Medical care, health education, disease prevention, laboratory testing, physicals, women's and reproductive health, flu shots, immunizations.

Disability Resource Services
Library Annex 24 / 209-667-3159 /

Supports students and arranges accommodations for students with disabilities, including disabilities related to learning, vision, mobility, hearing, autism, or chronic or temporary health factors.

Psychological Counseling Services
Student Services Annex 1 / 209-667-3381 /

Confidential individual personal counseling and group/wellness workshops to help students deal with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, relationships.

Diversity Center
Library Annex 6 and 7 / 209-667-3511 /

Workshops, student space, reading nook, complimentary coffee and tea, social justice library, conference room space.

Undocumented Student Services
Library Annex 6 / 209-667-3519 /

Walk-in advising, workshops, legal services, DACA renewal, scholarships, peer support, family and community engagement.

Academic Success Center
MSR 210 / 209-667-3700 /

Drop-in advising for general education, university requirements, undeclared majors, academic probation, and California Promise.

Learning Commons
Library Annex 14 / 209-667-3642 /

Tutoring (walk-in and regular appointments), supplemental instruction, WPST, writing center.

Career and Professional Development
MSR 230 / 209-667-3661 /

Career coaching, workshops, resume building, business attire, and more.

Interesting Articles, and Web Sites for Paper Sources


(The contents of this web page are borrowed liberally from Dr. Melanie Martin's CS 4100 course description, with permission.)