• brazzy (cs)

    Basically the paper version of putting data in an invisible HTML form field and trusting the user not to meddle with it.

    i.e. this WTF is alive and well until today.

  • corey (unregistered)

    When I first read the "Robert Reagan", I could swear it said "Ronald Reagan"

  • akatherder (cs)

    So did they overbook the class or did the poor sucker who got a legit punch card and was last to register get bumped?

  • taylonr (cs) in reply to akatherder

    Probably neither. My experience was usually fewer "seats" than actual desks. Meaning that even though the registration said "25 seats" there were usually 27 or 28 desks available.

    Also, I'm sure it was no different back then, that people would sign up and never show up.

  • OBloodyhell (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • WhiskeyJack (cs)

    I woudn't have been more than a wee toddler in the 70's, so I have no recollection, but really? There were punch cards in use in supermarkets and stuff?

  • NaN (cs) in reply to akatherder

    Akatherder: Nope, that class would just be one person heavy.

  • Archibald Buttocks (unregistered) in reply to brazzy
    brazzy:
    Basically the paper version of putting data in an invisible HTML form field and trusting the user not to meddle with it.

    i.e. this WTF is alive and well until today.

    You fixed it?

  • Otter (unregistered)

    Presumably there was an assumption that only an insignificant number of dishonest people would cheat the system, and that added security wasn't warranted. That seems to have been correct, since classes weren't overflowing.

    I'm not seeing a WTF here, just a complete obliviousness to honor by both Robert and Alex.

  • OBloodyhell (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • OBloodyhell (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Bert from Earth (unregistered) in reply to WhiskeyJack

    Yes, punch cards were in use in one supermarket chain here in Belgium. I remember going shopping with my parents in the 80s and it being my job to take one punch card from the rack for each product my parent put in the shopping cart. Great fun. :)

  • Paula Gnome (unregistered)

    1.) Collect punchcards. 2.) ??????? 3.) Profit, Bitches!

  • The real wtf fool (unregistered) in reply to Otter
    Otter:
    Presumably there was an assumption that only an insignificant number of dishonest people would cheat the system, and that added security wasn't warranted. That seems to have been correct, since classes weren't overflowing.

    I'm not seeing a WTF here, just a complete obliviousness to honor by both Robert and Alex.

    I'm seeing a complete obliviousness to student needs by universities. Only running a popular class once a year. Not providing lecture theatres large enough to accomodate popular courses. WTF?

  • Tony (unregistered)

    I remember a while ago doing a machining course and the teacher was telling us about these new punch card controlled machines and asked if any one has seen any. One guy said that they have one at his workplace and when the teacher got all excited and asked him what sort of punch card machine it was he replied, a bundy clock. The whole class cracked up.

  • Mizchief (unregistered)

    "Though, he did figure out why the Computer Programming students never seemed to mind the course registration process."

    Same reason CS students don't mind the cost of Music, Movies, and Software

  • Charles (unregistered)

    Our high school class used punch cards for attendance. There was a rack of slots near the teacher's desk with punch cards. For each absent student, she would go to the rack, remove the card that corresponded to the student, and submit it to administration.

    Our hack? To intercept the runner on the way to admin and have the card removed. The runner was another student. It required a bribe and a runner that was willing to be bribed.

    Being a runner was a lucrative job.

  • Death (unregistered)

    Look up stripe code fraud. Same system, different medium. Today the info systems behind the codes are simply usually wiser.

  • matt (unregistered) in reply to Charles
    Charles:
    Our high school class used punch cards for attendance. There was a rack of slots near the teacher's desk with punch cards. For each absent student, she would go to the rack, remove the card that corresponded to the student, and submit it to administration.

    Our hack? To intercept the runner on the way to admin and have the card removed. The runner was another student. It required a bribe and a runner that was willing to be bribed.

    Being a runner was a lucrative job.

    You will tell me where Sanctuary is.

  • Someone You Know (cs)

    The first time I signed up for university courses, it was done over the phone; you dialed a certain number, and an automated phone menu prompted you to enter your student ID number, the numbers of the courses you wanted, and so on. It took a fair amount of time, but it worked well enough.

    For my second semester, the university introduced a web-based registration system known by the backronym SPIRE. SPIRE was the cause of innumerable headaches for the remainder of my time there. It was totally unprepared for the level of activity it would actually see; there are nearly 20,000 undergraduates if commuters are included.

    On the first day of each registration period SPIRE would usually crash for a while due to the sudden volume of requests. The same would occur on the first day of each semester's actual classes, when everyone would log on to SPIRE to find out which buildings their courses were in. The interface also had all manner of usability problems, not the least of which was that using your browser's back button while searching for a course would usually break the system to the point that you'd have to log out and log in again to get anything to work. SPIRE had even CS students like me wishing for the days of the old phone-based registration system, which was slow, but always worked.

    There was also a rumor going around that support for SPIRE was unavailable during one crash because the university was unable to pay the vendor the support fees — which it was supposed to pay using SPIRE's financial component.

    Summary: these WTFs didn't die with punch cards.

  • Cope with IT (unregistered) in reply to matt
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Bappi (cs) in reply to Bert from Earth
    Bert from Earth:
    Yes, punch cards were in use in one supermarket chain here in Belgium. I remember going shopping with my parents in the 80s and it being my job to take one punch card from the rack for each product my parent put in the shopping cart. Great fun. :)
    That was Colruyt (www.colruyt.be), one of the first supermarkets in Belgium to use automation. I seem to recall they'd even set up their own hardware and software subsidiary, Dolmen (yep: www.dolmen-ip.com). Since punch cards were the only way to go, that's what they used. Eventually, bar codes came along, but Colruyt had a huge investment in the punch card systems, so these pioneers were about the very last to switch to bar codes.

    I've had the pleasure of working at some of their stores in my student days. I remember well, the worst was restocking the shelves, being a cashier was better, but the really cushy job was refilling the punch cards on the racks. Nothing was as easy as wandering the aisles with a box of cards in your hands... Also good was taking returns for drink crates: they'd get placed on a pallet, and when one was full, you'd get to manually punch out a card that went with the pallet. Loved that.

  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to brazzy

    I wasn't terribly amused with this WTF, too tame by comparison to the average article featured on this site. On a scale of 1052 to 1057, its at most a 1053.

  • akatherder (cs) in reply to NaN
    NaN:
    Akatherder: Nope, that class would just be one person heavy.

    Even in the punch card days I'm sure they could program an if-statement and a comparison. It's just a matter of comparing the amount of students enrolled with the maximum students allowed. Whether they did or not is the big question.

  • Lyle (unregistered)

    Not a bad story. Of course, I made my own punch cards out of paper that I made from trees, and using a hole punch that I assembled from metal that I mined and smelted myself.

  • Mike (unregistered)

    Do the authors get paid by the word? This could have been told in a paragraph at most.

  • Outlaw Programmer (cs) in reply to The real wtf fool

    It's comforting to know that even in the 1970's, course schedule systems were a complete mess. WTF is it about this particular domain that makes good software/procedures impossible to come up with? Sheesh.

  • Smash King (cs) in reply to Someone You Know

    It remembers me of Mother and the other stories the commenters posted about it. It was a lot of fun to read, gladly I never experienced this brand of WTFs myself

  • Anonymous Cow-herd (unregistered) in reply to Mike
    Mike:
    Do the authors get paid by the word? This could have been told in a paragraph at most.

    Just like some real shops, they charge by the word, and sting the customer by claiming they need additional superfluous sentences to flesh it out or it just won't be Funny(TM).

  • Lord Parity, Last Count of Register (unregistered)

    Back then I was a member of a book club which sent a punch card every month. The card had to be returned in order to decline the current month's selection. According to the published procedures, all I had to do was write "cancel" on the card to terminate my membership. I did that three times and the cards kept coming.

    Then I noticed the cards were puched only in the first ten and last ten columns. The middle sixty were unused.

    I took the card to work. In the middle sixty columns I punched "so cancel my membership already". I don't know what that card did when it hit, but I never heard from them again.

  • real_aardvark (cs) in reply to akatherder
    akatherder:
    NaN:
    Akatherder: Nope, that class would just be one person heavy.

    Even in the punch card days I'm sure they could program an if-statement and a comparison. It's just a matter of comparing the amount of students enrolled with the maximum students allowed. Whether they did or not is the big question.

    At last, an intelligent comment from someone other than an unregistered git.

    Looking back, there were two possible uses for a punch-card: one for computational purposes and one as a substitute for a mag-stripe or equivalent.

    In this case, we're clearly dealing with the latter. Ifs, buts, and conses do not come into it.

    Borrowing from my father's knowledge as an admissions tutor, there is no such thing as "the maximum students allowed." There never has been.

    What, you're going to deny them the right to stand at the back and do a Mexican Wave every time Dijkstra's name is mentioned?

    This is a university, goddamnit. Students signing up to courses is good. Several of them won't turn up, but that's a problem for the adminstrators, not for you.

    In short, I think that (easily faked) punch cards would have been the perfect solution in the 1970s.

    Now, show me that registration database in Access 2000 ...

  • real_aardvark (cs) in reply to Outlaw Programmer
    Outlaw Programmer:
    It's comforting to know that even in the 1970's, course schedule systems were a complete mess. WTF is it about this particular domain that makes good software/procedures impossible to come up with? Sheesh.
    Ignorant managers.

    Next question please.

  • BobB (unregistered)

    I was programming Fortran in the 70s! 79 to be exact.. The year I was born... COUGH

  • NotThatSmart (unregistered)

    Damn some people were super smart in the 70s. How did they do it?

  • Frost (unregistered) in reply to matt
    matt:
    Charles:
    Our high school class used punch cards for attendance. There was a rack of slots near the teacher's desk with punch cards. For each absent student, she would go to the rack, remove the card that corresponded to the student, and submit it to administration.

    Our hack? To intercept the runner on the way to admin and have the card removed. The runner was another student. It required a bribe and a runner that was willing to be bribed.

    Being a runner was a lucrative job.

    You will tell me where Sanctuary is.

    There is no Sanctuary.

  • Matthew Wakeling (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • spejic (unregistered)

    I was born just a bit late for this era of computing, but I was born just in time for its immediate aftermath. In my kindergarten we used to use boxes and boxes of obsolete and discarded cards for flash cards and other purposes. We would write on them with markers. All the desks would have hundreds of little black rectangles on them where the marker went through the holes.

  • Konamiman (unregistered)

    By the mid-80s, things had become much better. I had my first computer in 1986, an MSX that used cassette tapes to store data. One could buy an external 360K disk drive, of course; it just costed about 500 €... that is, 100 € more than the computer itself.

  • grg (unregistered) in reply to brazzy
    Comment held for moderation.
  • toutomoutochan (cs)

    I'm also too young for punch cards, but I remember a story in one of my elementary school reading books called "Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate". It was about a woman who keeps getting automatic mailings from the phone company (or somesuch).

  • Joe (unregistered)

    You all make me feel so OLD! I used to program in punch cards back in the 70's. Happy was the day when we could put sequence numbers on the cards. Before then, should you drop your deck, you had a bit of a problem on your hands.

  • Bappi (cs) in reply to Joe
    Joe:
    You all make me feel so OLD! I used to program in punch cards back in the 70's. Happy was the day when we could put sequence numbers on the cards. Before then, should you drop your deck, you had a bit of a problem on your hands.
    "Q: How do you bury an old programmer? A: Face down, nine edge first."

    Let's see how many young whippersnappers get that.

  • Steve (unregistered) in reply to The real wtf fool
    The real wtf fool:
    I'm seeing a complete obliviousness to student needs by universities. Only running a popular class once a year. Not providing lecture theatres large enough to accomodate popular courses. WTF?
    Not necessarily. Some courses, especially advanced ones, are taught only once yearly because the professor has other duties, including research and publication. Some courses, again, especially upper division ones, take a tremendous amount of effort to present.

    Regarding lecture halls, not all courses are taught in lecture halls and even so, there are only so many to go around. Since the taxpayers (in state funded institutions) are often loath (for very good reasons) to vote large construction bond issues or otherwise pay what it takes to provide indefinitely expandable facilities, there will always be limits to available facilities (if you ever want to see an acrimonious battle, try academic "space wars" -- in our building there is one professor who hasn't spoken a word to another professor for close to 20 years because of conflicts over space).

    (Disclosure: if it isn't obvious, I am employed at a large university as a research staffer. I am, however, not a professor.)

  • danixdefcon5 (cs) in reply to real_aardvark
    real_aardvark:
    Borrowing from my father's knowledge as an admissions tutor, there is no such thing as "the maximum students allowed." There never has been.

    What, you're going to deny them the right to stand at the back and do a Mexican Wave every time Dijkstra's name is mentioned?

    This is a university, goddamnit. Students signing up to courses is good. Several of them won't turn up, but that's a problem for the adminstrators, not for you.

    Try telling that to my university. Sometimes their system would bork up courses so that it was impossible to fill up my required course list; or some of them would show "closed - maximum student count reached" or something. To give them some credit, though, they did try to open up more slots as said courses overflowed. Problem was when you just had to take a course that had few students enrolled, that was harder to get.

    Oh well, that system had a whole boatload of WTFs in itself, it might be even worthy of a main article.

    real_aardvark:

    In short, I think that (easily faked) punch cards would have been the perfect solution in the 1970s.

    Now, show me that registration database in Access 2000 ...

    Oh dude, you just brought my worst nightmares back. While the actual registration process was done in real stuff (something running in HP-UX with Oracle as a backend is everything I know about it), they had some weird "pre-register" process, supposedly to "update" my personal info. That was in Access.

    How do I know this? Because sometimes you would get a 500 Error stating something like "[MS Access ODBC Driver]" or something like that. So the "secret" link to the actual enrollment system became a prized possession, as it enabled you to skip the b0rked page completely.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, I "updated" my personal info about 4 semesters in a row, and those changes never appeared in the actual system.

  • zonerow (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • R3ap3R (unregistered) in reply to Paula Gnome
    Paula Gnome:
    1.) Collect punchcards. 2.) ??????? 3.) Profit, Bitches!

    ^ Stolen from Southpark, underpants gnomes episode... wtg.

    1.) Collect underpants 2.) ??????? 3.) Profit, bitches!

    ... damn captcha; try again

  • anon (unregistered) in reply to real_aardvark
    real_aardvark:
    Borrowing from my father's knowledge as an admissions tutor, there is no such thing as "the maximum students allowed." There never has been.

    What, you're going to deny them the right to stand at the back and do a Mexican Wave every time Dijkstra's name is mentioned?

    This is a university, goddamnit. Students signing up to courses is good. Several of them won't turn up, but that's a problem for the adminstrators, not for you.

    Fire code violations aside, having more students means you need: -More TAs to grade exams/problem sets -More TAs to lead discussion sessions, if class has any -More TAs for TA hours to answer student questions -More difficult for students to become engaged in the class or ask questions. -More difficult for students to learn because they’re stuck standing in the back instead of having a desk (ie: god help you if you’re not 20 minutes early). -More administrative/logistic effort to manage all the students/TAs -More difficult for the professor to directly interact with students.

  • Bob (unregistered)

    Necessity is one baaad mutha.

  • sroens (unregistered) in reply to Joe
    Joe:
    You all make me feel so OLD! I used to program in punch cards back in the 70's. Happy was the day when we could put sequence numbers on the cards. Before then, should you drop your deck, you had a bit of a problem on your hands.

    A neat trick was to draw a diagonal line on the egde of the card stack. That way you could identify any misplaced cards. I'm glad those days are long past.

  • ssprencel (cs) in reply to Lord Parity, Last Count of Register
    Lord Parity:
    Back then I was a member of a book club which sent a punch card every month. The card had to be returned in order to decline the current month's selection. According to the published procedures, all I had to do was write "cancel" on the card to terminate my membership. I did that three times and the cards kept coming.

    Then I noticed the cards were puched only in the first ten and last ten columns. The middle sixty were unused.

    I took the card to work. In the middle sixty columns I punched "so cancel my membership already". I don't know what that card did when it hit, but I never heard from them again.

    When I read that I spit my toothpick out of my mouth I laughed so hard. I guess you punched a wrench in their gears!

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