School books always outdated

In 1986 I was at an upper (business) school in Germany and we had to learn from a 1979 book which was just about 60s or 70s mainframes. Language lab devices were always defective. At another school earlier, around 1985 we had Olivetti computers that also were often defective so we learned on Commodore 64. And I think we didn’t had modern books either.
I think books were always outdated. So the teachers had problems and had to make up their own stuff maybe with sheets.
Anybody with same experience?


At CSU Sacramento in the mid-1980s several of the upper-division professors published their own books, which we had to buy. I was okay with the idea, but I was often frustrated by the high prices of books in general. Luckily, the campus bookstore offered a buy-back program at the end of the semester which allowed us to recover some of the cost, and we were often able to buy used books at the beginning of the semester at reduced cost. The book store still made a wicked profit, but I chalked that up to “the American Way” and shrugged it off. I kept many of the texts that had no apparent resale value, and they’re still stuffed in my closet over thirty years later. Some may now be collectors items, but I haven’t attempted to find out.

Many academic subjects have a “timeless” quality, while others on the “cutting edge” change rapidly, and are not as compatible with text-book formats. But that’s what lectures are for, I suppose.

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In 1998 or so I was excited to take my first assembly language course from NJIT, only to discover to my vexation that it was for the VAX. I think our textbook was this one:

We had to telnet into the campus system to do our homework. I was thoroughly disgusted at having my time wasted by this outdated and useless machinery and spent the whole semester trying to figure out how to learn x86 assembly language without having to shell out megabucks for MASM. (This is when I discovered A86 and Randy Hyde’s “Art of Assembly Language.”) Somehow I still managed to get a ‘B’ in that class, even though none of my programs would run.

Now I wish I’d hung onto that old textbook…

My first assembly language course was the Fall of '84. I already knew a lot of 6502 and a bit of Z-80 and 6809, and I thought it might be something cool like 68k, but it ended up being IBM 360. There was no 360 on campus, so we used a cross-assembler and simulator time-shared on the monstrous 60-bit CDC Cyber with one gigantic line printer, so we had to wait hours for our results during the busy times! We did have a couple of VAXen on campus, so that would have been kind of neat in my opinion. I didn’t like x86 assembly (still don’t), but it would have been far more modern and useful, and might have even changed my opinion of the x86. I’m too old to change my opinion now … :upside_down_face:

I attended a voluntary IT class in school. We were the first year not to resort to TI programmable calculators, but were to do things on a proper computer. However, its roll-out was delayed and it was all about programming on paper. In the first semester that is. In the second semester, the much awaited computer arrived, and turned out to be a domestically produced Philips P2000. This was mostly a glorified Magnavox II console, but with its monitor it looked somewhat professional (it may have been a model P2000M) and didn’t only come with BASIC, but there was a PASCAL cartridge, as well! So all fine? Not really: the static shielding was somewhat lacking, if present at all. Even with an antistatic mat it was expressly shy and didn’t tolerate two or more people at once in its close proximity, or the teacher, who was actually a physics teacher, a profession proudly demonstrated by his nylon lab coat. So the poor thing preferred to retract to its very entrails most of the time, only communicating with the outside world by a scarce “Call Service” message, ornamented by a phone number. So it was back to paper programming – and, because of this proud example of advanced domestic production, we didn’t have any programmable calculators to fall back on.

PS: Today, I think the most remarkable thing about this computer was that it had actually a phone number in ROM.

PPS: The paper part of that course wasn’t bad at all. The text book provided a decent introduction to computers, a detailed part on BASIC and some comprehensive sections on other programming languages like FORTRAN or Algol 60, there may have even been some cursory COBOL examples.

PPPS: Keep in mind that, at least in the beginning, it wasn’t clear at all that this may have been a problem of static shielding. The computer was started, soon displayed the “Call Service” message, which was eventually obeyed to, service arrived and found no specific error, a few weeks later, another attempt was made, an antistatic mat was acquired, etc. The net result was about three rather sadly ending sessions, the last one an attempt to compile and run Pascal, which involved interactions with the micro cassette drive, which was simply asked too much from this machine in that specific environment.

The problem was that this specific course had the rather ambitious goal that we were to program in Pascal, rather than beginning with BASIC and stepping up from this, since structured programming was the functional programming of the era. However, we never arrived at this goal and had to resort to the book, which was more focused on BASIC, somewhat derailing the setup of that course. Much for the same reason, it was only at the end of that year that we started to privately obtain some of the cheaper BASIC machines, which became available then. (Personally, I started with a BASIC programmable Sharp PC1211 pocket computer, which was some of step down as I focused on the Algol section of the text book and even acquired a more detailed Algol manual before this. I still have a weak spot for the aesthetics of the machine representation of Algol for mini computers with keywords in single quotes. :slight_smile: )

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I was very lucky with my early education in high school and college. We always had the absolutely latest text books and material. Teachers rotated on being teachers and working in the industry and getting updated that way, and then back to teaching.

And when we started on microprocessors, for example, the textbook was just off the printer and definitely up to date. In the digital lab we got AIM-65 computers the same year they started making them, and so on.

It was only when I entered my final year in engineering, at a different college, that it went downhill - we had textbooks I had already used in my first electronics class in high school, several years earlier. I would have learned more simply by repeating the previous year a couple of times - the curriculum was renewed every year.

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I found several versions (Win, Lin, DOS) on-line at: Art of Assembly Language Programming and HLA by Randall Hyde. This looks pretty interesting, so I got the Linux-32 and the MS-DOS-16 PDF editions, along with the software library, the sample code and the older sample code.

Back in the early 1990s, I bought a copy of the MS-DOS 5 Programmer’s Reference Bible. That is where I discovered the DOS calls, and realized how similar they were to CP/M calls (as in doing similar jobs.) It is still on my book shelf, although I haven’t had time to read through it lately.

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In my hand is “The MS-DOS Encyclopedia” I inherited from my father in-law … 1570 pages, plus a Foreword by Bill Gates. It seems to focus mostly on DOS 3.2, but the very popular 3.3 did make it into Appendix A.

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