Cross platform compilers

Let the title of this post or the image to the left not scare you away. This has never been a tech blog and shall always steer clear of that temptation to be one. A more suitable title for this post would have been, ‘Crass plate farm kaam pilers‘. On second thought it seems to make more sense. Anyways don’t skip this post thinking that it is a tech tutorial on some random shit. I’ve always maintained that college has been the best four years of my life and this incident is also from those glorious years. Despite some untoward incidents and my notorious behavior, I’ve always managed to ace the labs and keep my head afloat in pursuit of that elusive degree.Β  It was a well known fact of how we passed the exams with a collective effort the night before and also in the examination hall. While someone distracted the attention of the invigilators for an additional sheet or something else, the rest of us exchanged sheets, passed question papers with the solutions written on them with a pencil etc.

Labs however was a totally different ball game, the batches were small and one wasn’t permitted any additional sheets of paper. No paper implied that it was hard to
hide
pre-written programs(read
as chits) or
pass them around
hard to hide pre-written programs(read as chits) or pass them around. A few smart ones could share the folder on the network and others copied files, but that was it. Sharing folders was also risky for it was visible to all especially the smart alecs who took pride in being whistle blowers. In spite of heavy scrutiny and confusion, we still managed to carry out our activities maintaining a low profile of course. This was in the IInd year Ist semester and we had a ‘COBOL‘ lab. It may sound archaic and make me look like a dinosaur but this was in 2002 so kindly stop rolling your eyes. After ‘C Programming‘ in the first year this was our second programming lab and I never missed labs. It was the day of the exam and a lot of kids wore tense looks on their faces. Written exams were easy to get away with owing to reasons mentioned above but labs were a threat due to the minimal scope for tomfoolery. Failing a written test was no big issue and was a prestige issue for many as they could always be given next semester. Failing a lab was sacrilege for those were always looked down upon and the second attempt would be twice as difficult.

We had to pick numbers from a jar and each program was assigned a number, this ensured that no one in the vicinity got the same program. For the kids who are not averse to programming, to the left is a sample COBOL program and I have no inhibitions in voicing my disgust for it. During the first year I had logged in and finishedΒ  the programs for a few of my so-called-friends. I use the term ‘so-called‘ because one of them goofed up when quizzed by the lecturer and let the cat out of the bag. That particular lecturer had a grudge against me and was waiting for an excuse to fail me. It was only with the intervention of another lecturer that I was let off with a minimum pass mark. I was busy trying to ram through my program and get done with this so that I never have to see it again all my life. It was then this guy RollNo 12 who nudged me and asked for some help. A brief history bout the guy, he never attended a single lab and would appear directly for the exam and pray for a miracle. On that eventful day, little did I know that I was supposed to be his miracle.

Not wanting a sequel to that episode i had decided to finish my stuff and get out at the earliest. RN12 made sorry faces and began a sob story of how he had to work and study at the same time. I might not be a very good person, but his story touched me in a way.

RN12: maams, plz help karo.
me: OK fine, write the program and I’ll take a look and help you fix any errors.
RN12: I know only XYZ program but I requested saar to give me that only.
me: errr, well good luck

This guy belonged to the ‘My Cow‘ essay category. Remember kids in school who memorized one essay in Hindi and then used the same even if the topic was ‘My Mother‘ or ‘My best friend‘. This guy had memorized one program and was going to do it no matter what he was given. My guess was that even the lecturer had taken pity on him and given him the program he wanted. RN12 had memorized a photocopy from someones book and reproduced it exactly with commas, comments and spelling mistakes.

RN12: maams plz konjam chudu
me: gimmie a minute (I edited the file on the network and corrected his syntax and typo errors )
me: compile and run it now. should work
RN12: maams, not running ya.
(from the corner of my eye i looked at his screen and it seemed fine)
me: looks good to me, wonder whats happening. compile it, I wanna see
(He hits a few keys and a window pops up, deja vu hit me like a lightning bolt)
me: hey what are you doing? and why does this screen look so familiar?
RN12: Ctrl+F9! thats how we compile na…

Not wanting to destroy college property I resisted myself from banging my head against the keyboard. Turns out that our friend RN12 not only knew one program but he had never seen a COBOL screen before. All he knew was Turbo C++ from the first year which he attended a few classes by mistake. To your right ladies and gentlemen, is what a TurboC++ screen looks like. RN12 was so jubiliant on recieving the only program he knew that he went and typed thw whole thing in verbatim in TurboC++. To compile and run a ‘C’ program we use Ctrl+F9. Though his program was fine, he was trying to compile it in TurboC++ which threw a host of syntax errors. In my defense, I was busy with my program and least expected him to compile it this way. RN12 asked my help with the program little did he mention that he had no idea whatsoever as to what COBOL was.Β  I think you can stop laughing and give me the benefit of the doubt for it could happen to anyone. With lecturers preying upon kids like us and not wanting to repeat the previous years episode, this became one of the most unforgettable incidents in college history. I never saw RN12 again and I heard that he discontinued Engg to support his family business. How grateful I am for his decision for only I know who disastrous the Java and SQL lab exams in the coming semesters could be.

(Images courtesy: Aralbalkan, IBM and Flickr)

Glossary:

  • C, COBOL, Java, SQL: Programming languages
  • Turbo C++: A software that is used to write and execute programs in ‘C’ language