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January 27, 2005 » 4:44 pm

PB&J Humor

My first exposure to programming came in the third grade, when my elementary school got a fresh shipment of Apple IIs. (My only prior experience with computers was from poring over those old Radio Shack TRS-80 comics featuring Superman. Anyone remember those?) My third grade teacher, Mrs. Keltner, introduced us to programming by asking us to write down instructions for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After collecting our recipes, she surprised my class the next day by literally following our instructions. Apparently, she hammed it up, and the class had a ball. One kid wrote, “Put peanut butter on bread,” so she put the jar on top of the bread.    (I80)

After going through a few recipes that were far too general, she finally came across a working recipe: mine. Yes, I was anal as far back as the third grade. My prize: A correctly constructed PB&J sandwich.    (I81)

I didn’t get to experience the glory of winning firsthand, as for some reason, I was absent for the first part of school that day. All I remember was coming in later that afternoon, seeing a sandwich on my desk, and asking my friends, “What the hell?”    (I82)

That sandwich had an amazingly (perhaps disturbingly) powerful effect on me. Years later, when I was teaching computers to kids at the Midpeninsula Boys & Girls club, I decided to use the same lesson. Worked like a charm. The kids had great fun with it.    (I83)

Yesterday, I spent half a day giving a group of nonprogrammers an overview of the software development process, and I thought it would be fun to do the ol’ PB&J exercise. Frankly, I expected the results to be about the same as it was with kids, but I underestimated these folks. Everyone wrote nicely detailed instructions. One woman wrote a damn treatise on the subject. I actually had to ask her to wrap it up.    (I84)

The funniest comment came from a guy who tapped his colleague on the shoulder and asked, “Did you write, ‘Call my wife’?”    (I85)

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