15-210: Parallel and Sequential Data Structures and Algorithms


There is no textbook for this class but we will suply reasonably detailed lecture notes for each lecture. The lecture notes can be found on the Schedule page. For a reference to the usage of SML please use the book Programming In Standard ML.

Pseudocode Syntax

In lectures and the lecture notes we will be using pseudocode for describing algorithms. This code uses set notation. A description of this syntax and how it maps to our SML libraries can be found here.

Library Documentation

We will be supplying SML libraries that support various collection types including Sequences, Sets and Tables. The documentation for these interfaces can be found here. The costs specifications for specific classes of implementations of the interfaces can be found here.

SML Style Guide

We have written a style guide to help you write clean, clear, and concise SML. You should follow it closely and feel free to ask for clarifications.


This course will make heavey use of two bboards:

To subscribe to these bboards:

  1. Go to webmail
  2. Click on "folders" at the top of the page
  3. In the righthand pane of the "subscribe/unsubscribe" section, find our two bboards.
  4. Select them one at a time and click subscribe

Once you've done this and refreshed the page, the bboards should show up in the list of folders on the lefthand side of webmail. They should also show up in a modern email client that you use to access your cyrus email.

To make a fresh thread in the discuss bboard, send mail to post+academic.cs.15-210.discuss@andrew.cmu.edu. To reply to a thread that's already been started, just use reply all instead of reply. Preserve existing thread structure as appropriate.


We have a course blog. The entries will largely mirror what's posted to the announce bboard, but in a more modern delivery method that you may or may not find convenient.


This course will make heavy use of SML/NJ's compilation manager. Documentation on how to use it can be found here.


We will use a git repository to hand out your homework assignments, sample code, and our libraries. Documentation on how to use it can be found here.


We require that you turn in your written homework assignments as a typeset PDF. There are many ways to create such a PDF, and you may use whichever one you feel comfortable with, but LaTeX is one of the best solutions.

LaTeX is built from Don Knuth's TeX typesetting language, and has grown through community support to be both extremely powerful and easy to use. LaTeX is installed on the Andrew UNIX servers, and can be downloaded and installed on local machines as well. There are any number of excellent resources about how to use LaTeX; a few are listed here for your convenience.

LaTeX source files can be created with any text editor, so emacs and vim are excellent choices. There are several LaTeX specific IDEs that you may find more comfortable to use, depending on your working environment:

We have produced a simple file that shows off many of LaTeX's more helpful features in both source and pdf. There is a basic template that you can edit and use for your homework solutions on the 251 page linked above. If you have your own format that you prefer to use, please feel free to do so.


An official installation of SML of New Jersey (sml/nj) can be run from the Andrew Unix servers at unix.andrew.cmu.edu. They are running version 110.69. All of your submissions for the class should compile on the unix machines.

sml/nj can be run from the command 'sml' in your shell. Alternatively, we have set up a macro 'smlnj' in /afs/andrew/course/15/210/bin that automatically wraps this with rlwrap, a convenient utility that allows you to use the arrow keys to go back and forth on a line and traverse your command history.

If you want a local copy of sml/nj, one can be acquired from the sml/nj website. There is source code available there, as well as platform-specific installation instructions. If you are running a distribution of Linux, there is a decent chance that you can find sml/nj in your package manager, though the version may or may not be the same as the one on the unix machines. If you end up doing this, we encourage you to make sure your code compiles on the unix machines before submitting it.

Andrew UNIX

Your Andrew ID gives you access to the UNIX servers via SSH. To use them, SSH to unix.andrew.cmu.edu with the SSH client of your choice. SSH ships with OS X, and can be accessed via the terminal; almost all distributions of Linux also ship with SSH or have it available through their package managers; putty is an excellent SSH client for windows users.

Once you have connected to one of the UNIX servers, you will be presented with a shell prompt, and you can work from there. The Computing Services documentation on how to use Andrew UNIX may be helpful.

You will need to use Andrew UNIX for electronic homework submissions. The directory for handin is located at /afs/andrew/course/15/210/handin/assignment name/your andrew id/

Text Editors

SML is best written in a text editor. There are IDE modes for large IDEs like Eclipse, but they are typically more trouble than they're worth. Emacs and Vim are the two clear choices for text editors in a modern UNIX environment. Rather than get into the question of which one is better, we'll give some guidence for how to use both here. Both are very mature and stable projects that provide largely the same functionality. Which of the two you prefer is entirely a question of taste.

GNU emacs

The guiding principle of emacs philosophy is that you should never have to leave emacs to preform a task if you don't want to. If you're writing C, it can run your makefile, and show you GDB output internally. It even has tetris and email clients built in. Despite being extremely large in this sense, emacs scales down to the smallest of text files elegantly.

The most sane version to use is GNU emacs, although both GNU emacs and Xemacs are installed on the Andrew UNIX machines. There's a ton of good documentation for how to use it available on the web, some of which is linked here.

You can control large swaths of emacs settings---such has indentation style, compiler hooks, and syntax highlighting---by setting its mode. There is an excellent mode specifically for editing SML. It's documentation can be found here. We wrote a short how-to to get you started with sml-mode.

Vi iMproved (vim)

The guiding principle of vim philosophy is that your text editor should do exactly that: edit text. It differs from emacs in that it makes much more extensive use of modes to get things done. You start out in command mode, which interprets keystrokes as commands, and can switch back and forth between it, insert mode (which actually enters text), and visual mode (which lets you select and modify large chunks of text). Having modes means that vim does not require a long series of keystrokes for every command.

Most Unix machines probably already have vim installed on them, but if not, odds are there is a vim package of some sort available. Windows users can also install a graphical version of vim to use as a text editor. Again, there is a great deal of documentation for vim available on the internet.

last modified 11:07, 22 Oct 2011
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The development of this course was supported in part by generous gifts from Intel's Higher Education Program, Microsoft Research, and IBM Research.