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The personal blog of M. Scott Smith

From the Historical Archives: Data Factory 🔗

During the spring of 1993, I was a sophomore at Drexel University. One of the courses I was taking was Data Structures. Data Structures covered foundational computer science topics such as linked lists, recursion, and the like. The assignments were somewhat dull. Most involved inputting data, performing various operations on the data, and outputting text.

Yawn.

I decided to spruce up Assignment Number 2 somewhat. Assignment 2 required implementing two stacks and a queue, using these data structures to place unsorted items in the correct order. I decided to add a graphical front-end to the program, to visually show what happens during this kind of sort. I called the program "Data Factory." The following movie shows Data Factory at work.

Elegant, it is not. But it was kind of fun to write and knocked the socks off of other students' submissions.



I was eager to get feedback from the professor. Unfortunately, that feedback came in the form of a bad grade (a "B"!) I was confused (and a little angry, after spending so much time on a simple programming assignment), and went to speak with the professor to find out what warranted a "B." It turned out that the grading was done by a work study, who hadn't bothered to execute the program, and knew nothing about graphical programming. I had completely separated the graphical code from the stack and queue code, but that still confused the work study. The professor seemed hesitant to change the grade, but when he saw the program running, he couldn't hide being impressed by it.

For the remainder of the course I simply implemented the programming assignments as dryly and boringly as I could, getting an "A" on each one. Sometimes going beyond the call of duty isn't appreciated.

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