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July 05, 2005

Classy experience taught for programmers

Wirt Atmar, one of the 3000 community's most seasoned developers and advocates, is teaching a course on Modern Programming philosophy starting next Monday. It's a course to be taught using the technology Atmar's company has developed, meaning that students will be able to view lectures from anywhere they can get a reasonable bandwidth Internet link. QCShow has been a project that Atmar's team at AICS Research has developed over the past several years, funded in part by a National Science Foundation grant, that feeds course lectures through a browser, complete with slides and instructor audio. You can still sign on by faxing Wirt your full name, credit card number and expire date, and e-mail address, to (505) 526-4700. "Philosophy of Modern Programming," offered July 11-August 21 will be

...a pre-prepared downloadable audio slide show which you can watch at your convenience, so even if you have travel plans during this period, unless you will be completely disconnected from the internet, you should be able to stay current quite easily.

It's a natural to see Wirt offer a class to the 3000 community at large. His advocacy and experience with the 3000 puts him in an elite echelon. He's a professor and scientist by trade as much as a software company developer and president. He began his commercial 3000 development experience by creating a word processing solution during the early years HP was heavy into the 3000 terminal market. Years ago his firm created QueryCalc, a super report generator used as the basis for applications on 3000s around the world. QCTerm followed, a free Windows-based terminal emulator for HP 3000 hosts.

One of the things that's fun about Wirt is that he likes to cut across accepted wisdom. In 1996 he was instrumental in creating the World's Largest Poster project, which unfurled tons of plotter paper across an Anaheim football stadium to promote MPE to HP officials at that year's HP World. When the management at HP decided in 2001 to step away from the community, Atmar replied by making a case for staying on the platform another 20 years. (Wirt said "indefinitely" as far as the 3000's prospective term, but it looks like a calendar problem in 2027 might be a roadblock, at least for now.)

At the same time, he's made avid use of other environments and platforms; QCShow runs on Windows, and the company is waiting to see what happens with the new x86-based Macs before it proceeds with a QCShow player for the Mac, Linux and Unix, for example. The course will show some of the technique that let AICS developments emerge.

As of last week, Wirt said he still had room for more students in his class, an experience I expect will show the richness of the 3000 community's legacy: incisive minds still at work on new ideas. It took a bit of rebellion to choose the 3000 over IBM during the 1970s and 1980s, a  difference in thinking any 3000 veteran can lay claim to as they move into their next career chapters.

The class is $125, with lectures to be delivered on Mondays and Fridays. Wirt says

There will be two quizzes (classes without grades are never taken seriously enough), one midway and the second at the end, although the grades will be recorded no where except with the student. The minimum class size necessary to make the class is 10 people; the maximum is 100.

The class will center itself around a very pretty idea, finite state automata theory. Object-oriented programming is a subset of finite state automata theory. Visual BASIC will be the language explored, and it would be helpful if the prospective student was somewhat familiar with VB, but it’s not necessary.

3000 community members are now finding themselves teaching opportunities during the Transition era, but Wirt's a seasoned hand at this, having been a university professor since 1975. Taking a course on programming philosophy could be a way to open up some new doors for yourself. There are few courses offered by an MPE veteran that are taught with technology that lets you learn from your couch. AICS Research developed  that 3000 emulator, QCTerm, using the philosophy Wirt will detail in the course:

I’ve been designing finite state automata for 30 years now. In fact, everything we’ve ever built here has been a finite state automaton, including QCTerm and — as odd as it may sound — synchronous, finite-state analog computational systems.

01:15 AM in Newsmakers | Permalink

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