"Demystification" is just as important as "Abstraction" in "Computer Science" (Was: Know any Fortran

Chuck Guzis cclist at sydex.com
Fri Oct 30 16:14:47 CDT 2015

On 10/30/2015 01:40 PM, Fred Cisin wrote:

> I always assigned them a problem of writing a sort for a file/dataset
>  too big to fit into memory.  They literally refused to understand
> that a dataset could exist that would be too large to fit into
> memory. A couple of students wrote a letter to the college
> administration complaining about me and the department and our
> "out-dated" curriculum, insisting that "in the real world, the proper
> solution to a file too big for memory is to replace the computer with
> a bigger one."   I was actually called on the carpet to answer the
> charge! That was trivially easy when I pointed out to the chancellor
> how much it would COST to equip the student homework computer labs
> with computers capable of holding a national telephone directory in
> memory.

How times change.  Most programmers of my era, would do it the "old" way 
by habit--read in bits of the dataset.  It took quite a bit of 
relearning that mapping a file into a 48-bit address space and operating 
on the data directly, letting the pager do the bookkeeping could render 
what at first started out to be a fairly complicated job, very simple.


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