18 Aug 2000 
Scary Meep Story for today:  Programming a Robot to Make a Peanut Butter & 
Jelly Sandwich 
(you may have heard this one before, if you have, I give you leave to skip 
this entry) 
Long, long ago in the mists of time there once was a child named Mary Pat 
who lived in the little town of Atlanta.  Well, not Atlanta exactly, but 
in Cobb County between the little burbs of Marietta (home of the Newt) and 
Roswell (wait a sec -- isn't that in NM?)  The year was 1983, and personal 
computers were the latest thing - the latest educational thing, that 
is.  Very few families as of yet had computers. 
Except for little m.p.'s, for her father worked for the behemoth IBM, 
which had been chewing up various bits of downtown.  Thus, m.p. had an IBM 
PC at home running on that wondrous system, DOS.  She liked to play 
In any case, East Side Elementary School had a few Apple II computers, 
which were mainly used for doing math and grammar drills.  However, the 
powers-that-were realized that the children were not getting to understand 
that computers were much more than animated flash cards.  And thus the 
lesson plan was born. 
"We shall teach the children the wonders of programming," said the knowing 
authority figures, "We shall bring these children into the world of 
high-tech.  We shall teach them how to make a flowchart.  We shall explain 
to them what a program is." 
And lo, the third grade classes were assembled, and it was good. 
To give the children a hand at programming, they were told they should 
imagine they have a robot that they need to tell to make a peanut ubtter & 
jelly sandwich.  They were to write down the instructions on a 
mimeographed worksheet. 
Here is how the instructions usually went: 
Get peanut butter, jelly, and bread. 
Put peanut butter on bread. 
Put jelly on bread. 
Put bread together. 
Eat sandwich. 
And the authority figures proclaimed it to be good. 
However, m.p. was not yet done with her set of instructions.  Now, why was 
that?  This should be easy for a child who had already done some 
programming (Dad!  The computer doesn't work! Honey, it's spelled PRINT 
not PIRNT.)  This should be easy for a child who had been given a basic 
programming book just that year for her birthday. 
Well, it was easy -- it was just long.  She filled up both sides. 
Here is the beginning of her program: 
Find cabinet. 
Go to cabinet. 
Grasp cabinet door handle. 
Pull cabinet door open. 
Find peanut butter jar. 
Grasp peanut butter jar. 
Remove peanut butter jar from shelf. 
Carry peanut butter jar over to table. 
Place jar on table. 
Return to cabinet. 
Look for jelly jar... 
She had to cut corners at the end, having the robot find various utensils 
at the same time.  She realized later she should have written some 
subroutines, like retreive (object) from (place).  But she finished it and 
it was good.  She knew how stupid computers were.  You could transpose 2 
letters and the world would stpo (SYNTAX ERROR!). 
In any case, m.p. scared the authority figures and fellow children muchly. 
And it was very good indeed. 
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