IT Episode 3 – More Flowcharts

So in the good old days, flowcharting was the mean to save punch cards and therefore money. But I soon found out that it saved me time as well …

Somehow in year 1 the professors in the university had a strange habit – that was to distribute the assignment, first thing in the class. In other words, they distributed the previous assignment results, then the new assignment, only then they started teaching.

That was great, you know. I could then draw up the flowchart for the new assignment in the class … after all, I knew all the stuff the professor wanted to teach the class. By the time the professor finished his teaching, I already completed the flowcharting, desktop coding, compiling and testing. The only thing outstanding for that assignment was to punch the cards and ran it …

You see, I just saved an hour or two of designing, coding and debugging as I had finished all, virtually in my mind, by the elegant flowcharting.

Lesson Learnt: Save more time, and mistakes by proper planning.

IT Episode 2 – Flowcharting Maniac

So every line of code required a punch card (see Episode 1), and obviously for a poor student like me I had to find ways to use less card as each card costed some money. You know, the more bugs the program had, the more cards I needed to re-program (i.e. re-punch new cards). And if the program was in-efficient (e.g. lots of lines to do one simple logic), the more cards I needed as well … So, the solution was (is) Flowcharting.

Flowcharting is not new, but if you asked 100 modern-time developers the question “Which is your favorite programming tool?”. I bet 95 of them will answer “My IDE (Integrated Development Environment)”. And the other five will answer “My hand …”.

But to me, the best tool was (is) the Flow Chart. If one could not draw up a flow chart to describe the solution, I don’t think the program would work. Anyway, if you wanna know the basics of flowcharting, check out here.

Lesson Learnt: Good planning for everything, and for programming it is called flowcharting.

IT Episode 1 – Keypunch Machine

OK, it is time to blog something about IT (the trade I am in), but I reckon it makes little sense to blog the latest and greatest (as you can find easily in Internet) … so, what about something really “retro” ? Let’s start from the early 80’s (the time I get in touched with “Computing”) …

Way before the mini-computers, micro-computers (i.e. PCs), we have mainframe computers. And the only way (back then) to instruct the computers to do something smart (or stupid), was to use “Punch Cards“. To record those silly computer instructions to the Punch Cards and to “run” it, you need to do couple of silly things …

  • Get some blank punch cards by buying them from vending machines. If I recall correctly – 1 quarter for 50 cards.
  • Or you could “borrow” some from your friends, other computer centers, or other universities 😎
  • Then reserve a keypunch machine (or here) in the data center and punch in the computer programs (e.g. FORTRAN, PL/1, COBOL), line by line, with those machines.
  • Hand in the computer program (i.e. the deck of punched cards) to the computer room service desk, and the operator would submit the cards to the mainframe computer (see the card reader on the foreground …)

Lesson Learnt: WARNING – Don’t drop the punched card deck, or you need to re-sort the whole program …

Mr. and Mrs. IT User

Mr. IT User is a famous geek and with a wife who know nothing about IT but business – he knows all sort of technologies but he refused to speak his wife’s language (i.e. business language) and reluctant to consider how the technology can help his wife to do her own business better and easier. After all, all he wants is the latest and greatest.

Mrs. IT User is a successful businesswoman and married to a man who know nothing about business but IT – she knows all sort of business strategies, techniques and tricks but she refused to learn how IT can help her business … she believe her husband shall deliver anything she asks for, as soon as possible and for free.

How can they make this marriage a successful one ?

First, Mr. IT user needs to learn more about her wife’s business, speak her language and deliver something useful, cost-effective to her business…

Then, Mrs. IT user shall learn more about IT, the pros and cons, and the realistic cost – after all, there is no IT free lunch …

Lesson Learnt: No matter how good you are now, learn more to bridge the gap between you and your other half.

Remote Controller Freak

I cannot deny that I am a freak of all sorts of remote controllers. First of all, I have many devices at home and therefore there are many many remote controllers. And then I bought many many “remote control learners” to try to take over the many namless controllers. After so many expensive experiments with Sony, Philips, Marantz; there is only one winner – Harmony …

The idea of Harmony remote controllers are simply brilliant … set up the device on the web. In other words, just tell the web what devices you’re owning, and also what features you need to turn on / off when you’re watching TV, or DVD, or playing CD etc. etc. Then the web will compose a XML, and download to your Harmony remote controller.

Then that is the magical bit, you press “Watch DVD” command and it will turn on all related devices – e.g. DVD player, TV, amplifier etc. and select the proper device input and output as well. Next you press “Watch Cable TV”, and it will smart enough to turn off your DVD player, but turn on the cable TV set-top box, and select the proper device input / output again. How brilliant !! Thanks to that “Smart State Technology”.

Lesson Learnt: You can do a lot with the web and it can integrate nicely with the physical world as well.Go get a Harmony Remote.