State of New Jersey needs COBOL programmers

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at
Mon Apr 6 11:06:10 CDT 2020

On Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 5:28 AM Jim Manley via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> Speaking of COBOL and Admiral Grace Hopper, I have one of her actual
> nanoseconds, a piece of insulated solid wire about 11.2 inches long, when
> she was a Superintendent's guest lecturer.  Since I was a Navy MSCS
> student, she "signed" it with stripes and gaps in magic marker, as the ones
> and zeroes in ASCII representing her name.

Very cool.  I was supposed to get one of her nanoseconds as a
speaker's gift at a tech convention but they didn't get the packet in
time.  Obviously one can make a reproduction but the actual artifact
would have been cool to receive.

> As for learning computing, I have a slightly different range of students
> that are my charges than present company.  It starts with kindergartners
> and ends with adults of all ages in colleges and universities...

Definitely an interesting progression there.  The tangible nature of
pennies in egg cups is quite useful for the younger learners.

I was in elementary school in the early 70s, on the tail end of the
New Math.  We had Cuisenaire rods for learning about area and volume
(and powers of 10), and around second grade, we delved into alternate
number bases.  We touched on Base-6 and Base-8 because that was in the
mathbooks, but our teacher put more emphasis on Base-2.  We didn't
just treat them like plain numbers, we encoded letters (how many
7-year-olds can resist writing secret messages!)  We did the obvious
at first, 5-bit groups with 00000 for space and 00001 for A, etc., and
found that long sequences were quite tedious to write (and more
tedious to read).  We then came up with the idea (with prodding from
the teacher, no doubt) to substitute letters for sequences of 1s or
0s.  T for 111, F for 000, for example.  As I recall, we had subs for
5, 4, and 3 sequential identical binary digits (there being little
reward for subbing 2).  With a dictionary of 8 symbols, we had
obfuscation with light compression.

I started programming BASIC on the PET about 4 years later.  Learning
Boolean operators and bitmasks for I/O registers (to manipulate the
PET User Port) was easy after that earlier intro to Binary.

Definitely start the kids early on it.

>  You would be surprised at how many supposedly computing-savvy
> people have no idea that computing hardware almost universally executes
> everything at the bit level, and that the air around them is filled with
> exabits/second of serialized data via all sorts of frequencies and
> modulations.

No doubt.  I work with a lot of developers who have no idea how stuff
works below "Objects" (they instantiate an object, send it message and
magic happens - all black boxes connected with string).


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