Homework help requested (not what you think!)

Gene Heskett gheskett at wdtv.com
Thu Jul 18 15:38:15 CEST 2013


On Thursday 18 July 2013 09:04:32 Albert van der Horst did opine:

> In article <mailman.4786.1374021635.3114.python-list at python.org>,
> 
> Chris Angelico  <rosuav at gmail.com> wrote:
> >On Wed, Jul 17, 2013 at 8:43 AM, John Ladasky
> >
> ><john_ladasky at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> >> I think that they're disappointed when I show them how much they have
> >> to
> >
> >understand just to write a program that plays Tic Tac Toe.
> >
> >
> >The disillusionment of every novice programmer, I think. It starts out
> >as "I want to learn programming and make a game". Real programming is
> >more like "I can automate mundane tasks", which doesn't sound half as
> >exciting. But this is why I'm dubious of programming courses that
> >actually try to hold onto the "let's make a game" concept, because the
> >students are likely to get a bit of a let-down on realizing that it
> >really doesn't work that easily ("this is a two-week course, at the
> >end of it I should have written the next <insert name of popular game>
> >for all my friends").
> 
> Now comes the Forth experience.
> 
> I did the following experiment with a psychology student, who had
> never been exposed to computers and had no prior experience. He
> aquired a Jupiter Ace, which has Forth as a built in language. So his
> only exposure was to Forth. Now I started to teach him programming,
> using the cartoon book "starting Forth". Once in a weeek we sat
> together and worked through some exercises.
> 
> After 6 weeks he surprised me. He had programmed the game pong
> which is a simple table tennis like game, where you have to
> keep a ball in play.
> He never gave me a a chance to prevent him having a traumatic experience
> of failure by telling him that was not a task a novice should start.
> Or for that matter that such any real time programming requires
> considerable up front planning and design.
> [This was an adult, and at the time university students in the
> Netherlands were certified intelligent and skilled and disciplined
> in learning.]
> 
> The lesson that is in there for you is to not hold your students back.
> They may surprise you!
> 
> Groetjes Albert
> 
I'll 2nd those thoughts, and tell 2 or 3 stories.

When the Timex 1000 was new, I bought one for my kids and turned them loose 
with it.  Within a week my 10 year old had composed a car graphic, and 
written a small program to drive it around on the screen.

Back in a slightly newer time frame, Mr. Brodie's Forth, where you built 
your own extensions to the language, was used for a time at a small CA 
hospital as the hospitals accounting system, on a machine with only 64k of 
dram.  A TRS-80 Color Computer we now call the old grey ghost.

Fast forward 5 years from then, I wrote a program to work with a Grass 
Valley Group 300-3A/B television video switcher, which you could teach to 
do tricks, but it didn't have a means to save and reload them without 
buying a $20,000 EDISK accessory package.

So I wrote one in Basic09, running on a Color Computer 2, still only 64k of 
dram, based on a copy of the com protocol that had come with the switcher 
when we had purchased it used from KTLA-TV.  I wrote it on station time, 
and sold the station the hardware at about what it was worth at the time 
for a coco2 and 2 disk drives, $275.  14 years later as I was getting ready 
to retire and no one else knew that switcher, it was replaced, and my 'E-
DISK' was no longer needed, so they gave it to me, so I still have it in my 
'coco' collection in the basement.

Moral of course is never tell somebody it can't be done, he'll eat your 
lunch by doing it.  Oh, BTW, mine was 4x faster, and instead of a 2 hex 
digit display for file names, gave the tech directors English filenames on 
a small video screen.  They loved it because each one could then have his 
own personalized bag of video tricks to use during a news cast.

> >ChrisA


Cheers, Gene
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