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Topic: On "Programming the Calculator" (a curriculum segment)
Replies: 2   Last Post: Aug 29, 2005 2:41 PM

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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: On "Programming the Calculator" (a curriculum segment)
Posted: Aug 29, 2005 2:41 PM
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So right after writing this I got it that it was too "guy thing" i.e. all these control panels, which presumes an interested first person operator, and not much in the way of plot (although such could be imagined -- mostly from war stories, meaning guys again). So what's missing? I pondered this as I did a delivery of bookkeeping to a non-profit client of Dawn Wicca and Associates (yes, that's my wife's true, legal name).

Clearly it's Theater, a class in which actor-objects look like dolls, like animals, like you and me. Girls love playing with dolls, and boys too if you call them action figures. Here the stories are easier to understand. No quaternions, no planerians, no molecules or microbes of any kind. We're in Smallville again, watching teenagers form alliances, have dates. That's where girls want to be, a lot of the time, where the action is. Who cares about stupid differential equations.

But then we explain about 'The Sims' and how simulators have taken us far beyond the stark, dense and difficult world of "Diffy Q" (differential equations). Try programming 'The Sims' in formal differential calculus. Fat chance. This is real time digital animation, the view driven by a model, the user interacting with both via a controller (MVC), plus an instrumentation panel (keyboard, mouse etc.).

Adding theater atop the more stripped down APIs is how we unleash the imagination. Nor do we require that animated characters be completely rule-driven. We allow for human puppeteers, meaning we don't have to solve 'the AI problem' (how to duplicate human intelligence in software) before we let kids loose in a world of faithful-to-human intelligence (precisely because AI is *not* alone at the controls -- real human animators added the all-important finishing touches)).

To recap:

(a) start with the calculator object, an emulated physical calculator in a GUI context, and show how we wire it up in the back, by means of methods responding to widget events.

(b) get more deeply into the backend "game engine," not just in real time, but in a more painstaking and dissective mode -- more like medical school. See how quaternions make Alice move (a videogame allusion).

(c) leverage lessons learned with the calculator to visit control panels more generally, and encourage boy-like fantasies about control panels to die for.

(d) populate the canvas with humanoids, avatars, cartoon characters, so that plots of a more theatrical nature might encompass the aforementioned infrastructure. Finally it's becoming more interesting to girlz. And the intelligence needn't be faked, as computers permit communications with real other humans. Those avatar worlds may represent lots of other people pulling those strings, e.g. see: http://www.activeworlds.com/

Kirby



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