pchapin's CIS-4050 Compiler Design, Spring 2019


Peter C. Chapin. Office: BLP-415 on the Williston campus. Office hours are by appointment. Phone: 802-879-2367 (voice mail active). Email: pchapin@vtc.edu. I will usually respond to email within 24 hours, not including weekends or holidays. Email is the best way to contact me. I am also sometimes on Skype for Business, or on the FreeNode IRC network under the nickname pcc.

Course Description

The official course outline lists high level course objectives and content.

This is a course about designing and implementing compilers. In this course we will create a compiler for a simple programming language, exploring all phases of the compiler pipeline in the process. Although you may not end up writing compilers after leaving this course, understanding how they work will help you to use this essential tool effectively. Also compiler technology can be used in many other contexts besides compiling traditional programming languages. Examples include creating domain specific languages for special purposes, reading complex data formats, or translating from one semantically rich data format to another. Compiler implementation techniques thus form a useful tool for a variety of advanced purposes.


This course assumes you are comfortable with Java programming and have taken some kind of algorithms and data structures course and programming languages course such as VTC's CIS-3050 and CIS-3030. You should know something about the fundamental data structures such as lists, trees, and hash tables. You should also know something about various programming language design choices and perhaps have been exposed to context free grammars. In this course you will explore these later topics in more depth.


Engineering a Compiler, 2nd edition by Keith D. Cooper & Linda Torczon is the official text for this course.

I have created an email distribution list for the class. I will use this list to distribute announcements and other supplementary materials. Be sure to check your mail regularly (daily) or you might miss something important. If you send a question in email directly to me, I may reply to my distribution list if I think that others would benefit from my answer. If you would rather I did not reply to the list you should say so in your message.

My home page contains various documents of general interest. You will find my office hours posted there.


Grading Policy

I grade on a point system. Each assignment is worth a certain number of points. At the end of the semester I total all the points you earned and compare that to the total number of possible points. In this course there is just one component to your grade.

  1. Homework. 20 pts/each. There will be approximately eight assignments during the semester for a total of 160 points. You will have approximately two weeks to do each assignment. Most, if not all, of these assignments will entail programming.

If you are taking this course for graduate credit (CIS-6050), certain assignments will be different for you than those done by the undergradates. The total amount of work is intended to be similar, but the graduate assignments will entail a deeper dive into the material and/or evaluation of some current research.

For homework you can discuss the questions with other students and post questions related to the assignments in on-line forums. However, you should still do your own work. See the section on "Copying Policy" below for more information.

I will not formally take attendance, but I will notice people who seem "disengaged" in the class. Although attendance is not specifically part of my grading policy it will, like other intangible items such as "professionalism," play a role in how likely I am to round up borderline grades.

Late Policy

Roughly, late submissions are not accepted. If something comes up that prevents you from handing in an assignment on time, contact me, before the deadline if at all possible, to discuss your issue. As a practical matter I can accept a late submission if I have neither distributed a solution nor graded the assignment. Since either of those things can happen at any time after the due date, you should plan on submitting all materials on time.

Copying Policy

I encourage you to share ideas with your fellow students so I won't be shocked to learn that you've been talking with someone about an assignment. In fact if you worked closely with someone else you should make a note on your submission that mentions the names of your associates.

However, I do ask you to do your own work in your final submissions. If two submissions exhibit what I feel to be "excessive similarity" I will grade the submissions based on merit and then divide the grade by two, assigning half the grade to each submission. If I receive more than two excessively similar submissions I will divide the grade by the number of such submissions and distribute the result accordingly.

Since "excessive similarity" is a bit subjective, I may only give you a warning if the similarity is not too excessive—especially for a first offense. However, I do keep records on when I find excessive similarity and I will be much less inclined to be forgiving if I discover it again. If you are concerned about the possibility of submitting something that might be too similar to another student's work, don't hesitate to speak with me first.

If you find material on the Internet or in a book that seems to answer questions I ask in an assignment, you may include such material in your submission provided you properly reference it. If I discover that you have included unreferenced material from such sources, I may not give you any credit for the question(s) answered by such material. You do not need to provide a reference to our text book or to materials I specifically provide in class.

Other Matters

Students with disabilities may request accommodation as provided within federal law. All such requests should be made by first contacting Robin Goodall, Learning Specialist, in the Center for Academic Success on the Randolph campus. She can be reached by phone at (802) 728-1278 or by email at rgoodall@vtc.edu.

Last Revised: 2019-01-19
© Copyright 2019 by Peter C. Chapin <pchapin@vtc.edu>