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Lessons from Comp 4

I recently finished up teaching Comp 4, the computer literacy course here at UNC, during a compressed summer session. Comp 4 is an introductory class that assumes NO knowledge of computers among its students, and believe me when I say that this was often the case. The class was great fun to teach, and one of the facets that made it interesting (day-in and day-out) was the wealth of new knowledge that the students imparted to me on tests and examinations. I thought that I'd share some of these nuggets with you. My comments are in the standard C delimiters (/* and */). *Your* comments are encouraged. Here goes:

Bacchus invented FORTRAN. /* I knew FORTRAN was old, and that it may have been designed under the influence of alcohol, but... */

There are three kinds of program statements: sequence, repetition, and seduction.

There are two types of graphics: vector and rascal. /* Otay... */

Programming languages have specifictions. /* Obviously this student has dealt with a few standards. */

Macs are compatible with each other. /* Imagine the alternative: "What's your Mac's serial number? We'll go back to the warehouse and get your software."


Doctors use computers to create a three demential picture of a person's brain. /* Is this classic, or what? */

One kind of a hostile computer program is a Trojan.

C is a logical programming language. /* */

Heuristics (from the French heure, "hour") limit the amount of time spent executing something. [When using heuristics] it shouldn't take longer than an hour to do something. /* An absolutely terrific "false cognate". */

Having the computer automatically fill in images for animation is called "spleening". /* Derivation: most likely "splines" + "tweening". */

One method of computer security is a phone line. /* She qualified it later by adding, "You have to know the number."


Video games are examples of fault-tolerant systems.

On one test, I gave the students some abbreviations and asked them to tell me what they stood for. You won't believe the creativity of a student in a test situation. For example, one of the abbreviations was "fax", which *really* stands for "facsimile". However, various Comp 4'ers said it stood for: Fiber-optic Aided Xeroxing Frequency Automatic X-rays

/* and my favorite... */

Fast A** Xeroxing

The students also had to hand in term papers, and these were rife with interesting tidbits. I've clipped a few, quoted verbatim:

"The worst thing the Mac has to offer, is that cooperative multitasking is not available to be used."

"... footnotes present an interesting problem, which may be solvable by Hypercad."

/* I assume the last term is the newest rage -- a free-form database for designers. */

"...Linda, a blind girl, was able to attend public school due to the aid of a speaking computer that taught her the basic fundmamentals [sic] of grammar and spelling."

/* Linda may want to lend her computer out... */

"The program is manufactured by Quantel, a Silicon Valley company located in Clearwater, Florida."

/* A *long* valley, as my roommate put it. */

"At the beginning of each season [Edwin] Moses teats himself on computerized weight machines..."

/* Ouch! */

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