Turbo Pascal

Part 2 of the Netcromancer by M.J.Miello


It began, as many things do, with a test.  This particular test occurring only two weeks into my first semester. The class was Introduction to Computer Science as taught by Dr. Konstantinos Zervos.

Having taken three computer science classes in Staten Island Tech, I had a pre-existing notion of what a computer science teacher would be like. Dr. Zee did not fit my expectation.

Zee was in his early thirties. He wore his long hair in a ponytail and a gemstone earring that was positively pirate-esque.  His rolled up sleeves revealed tattooed lines of unreadable text circling his arms, but otherwise, he dressed like a conservative professor with an antique pocket watch tucked into his paisley vest.

Dr. Zee did not seem to give a damn about teaching this intro class. He looked bored, possibly hung over. He rattled off lecture points as if he was reading names from the phone book. He relied too heavily on powerpoint slides, flipping through them with such rapidity that the class gasped with frustration. I was thankful that he only taught one lecture before letting his TA take-over.

Nicholas, his Russian grad student was, by comparison, a paragon of efficient instruction. Unusually, the first two weeks were a condensed version of what we would spend the entire semester on—a smattering of MS-DOS commands before powering through the basic functions of Turbo Pascal: strings and loops, if-then’s and while’s, fields and multi-dimensional arrays. The pace was far too fast, and the material was presented without illustration—these types of concepts need to be used in order to be understood. We were supposed to be spending our class-time programming, not scribbling down notes. The class was near mutinous.

And then came the “quiz” which was so not a quiz. It was a full period test that would have made a tough final. At the end of the test were five nigh-impossible extra-credit question that would have made the sphynx blush.

“What the hell was that?” Someone asked when Nicholas collected the tests.

“Don’t worry,” the TA said, as the class collectively groaned, “Dr. Zee drops the lowest quiz grade.”

“Then what did you put us through that for?” someone shouted.

I didn’t have much trouble with it.


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