Short Story Title: Forbidden from Continuing in Electrical Engineering
Story Type: Fiction
This Short Story is Chapter Twelve of "Early Microcomputer Experiences"
Date Written: July 13, 2019
Written By: Joel T. Kant
Copyright (c) July 13, 2019
Throughout the large classroom, all of us students in EE 324 Linear Circuits flipped through the manuals for Spice circuit simulator that Dr. Silver had given each of us.
Dr. Silver announced, "Running Spice is the future of electrical engineering. To be competitive in the workplace, all of you need to learn it."
I raised my hand and asked, "I thought neither the PDP-11 nor the IBM mainframe here at Cornfield University could run Spice. Was I wrong?"
Dr. Silver stated, "Joel, you are not wrong. By next semester, Cornfield University will have a new mainframe computer that runs Spice."
Since there were three contenders for the new mainframe, and only two could run Spice, I thought that was an interesting statement. The one mainframe that could not run Spice among the contenders was the proposed new IBM mainframe. It was more powerful than the IBM mainframe already owned here, but had only half the specs of the proposal and could not run Spice.
Dr. Silver went on, "You are going to engage in another activity that will be the future in electrical engineering, telecommuting."
Bruce pointed out, "Joel, Tom, and I all daily check our e-mail on the PDP mainframe using a microcomputer and a modem. Those two do it with a Vic-20, but I do it with an Apple IIe! Isn't that telecommuting?"
Dr. Silver replied, "Only in a small way. Rapids River University has a Vax mainframe with Spice on it."
Bruce asked, "Isn't that about a hundred miles away?"
Dr. Silver said, "Around that. I've had two DecWriter terminals with phone modems put into the Cornfield Computer Center. Because we will be using long-distance phone lines, you will not be allowed to connect until after five pm. That's when the rates go down. You will then be allowed to connect."
I said, "The Computer Center closes at nine pm."
Dr. Silver said, "From five pm to nine pm on Monday through Thursday is your window to use Spice. There is also four hours available on Saturday from one pm to five pm. We do not have permission for Sunday."
Friday was not included in this list because the Computer Center closed at five pm then.
I looked around the classroom, seeing about thirty students.
I suddenly got worried and raised my hand, "Will the EE 224 Electric Circuits also be using Spice?"
That was the pre-requisite course for EE 324 Linear Circuits.
Dr. Silver replied, "Yes. I am sorry we did not have a way for all of you students to learn Spice when you took EE 224 last semester. For running your Spice programs this semester, you need to do it as individuals. I do not want any situations where one person does the work, and his partner or partners share the credit without really doing any work. All of you are to work alone. I expect all of you to obey the Cornfield University Student Honor Code, so not cheat and to report any cheating."
I was worried. EE 224 had forty students, while this had thirty. Thus, seventy students were supposed to use only two terminals that were only open in the evening! When I started at Cornfield University, there was a waiting list most days where it took about an hour to get onto a VT-100 terminal to connect to the PDP mainframe and once finally on one, it was much too slow to touch-type. Major upgrades to the PDP mainframe had relieved that problem this school year. I suspected the lines were going to be much worse for these two DecWriters than they ever were for the VT-100 terminals.
I asked, "What's the speed of the modems?"
Dr. Silver said, "1200 baud."
My borrowed modem from Josh Cistern was only 300 baud. That was a speed bottleneck, but 1200 baud modems were out of my current price range. The university at least had money for that. Still, even 1200 baud was a speed bottleneck.
Dr. Silver then launched to explaining how to use Spice. The first thing one needed was a schematic circuit diagram. Connection points called nodes or nets were numbered. Dr. Silver stressed that Spice expected node number zero to be the ground.
Glenview Cafeteria did not open for supper until five pm and closed around six thirty pm, with that the only cafeteria on campus. Suspecting a huge line for the DecWriters, I simply skipped supper to get to the Computer Center as soon as my last class let out, which was around four pm. The line was already out the door.
I hoped the wait would not be long. However, by the closing time at nine pm, the line had barely budged. In all that time, maybe six students out of the seventy had gotten their Spice assignment done. Two more were halfway through when kicked off the two DecWriters since the Computer Center was closing.
The next day, I also got there at four pm, only the line was even longer! It was still an hour yet before the logins were allowed. Tempers flared when some guys cut in line. A sys op ran out, and a fist fight was avoided.
Since most of us were on the meal plan and had to entirely skip supper to be here, I felt simply being hungry was adding to tempers.
The third day was the same routine, with me next to Bruce and Tom in line. Not one of us had gotten anywhere close to the two DecWriters yet, but Bruce asked Tom to hold his place in line.
Despite the huge tempers when people left line and came back, with waits taking four hours, or five hours if one includes waiting for an hour starting to form at four pm, this simply had to be done sometimes just for restroom breaks. Bruce was gone some time.
Tom then nudged me, "Look, Bruce is arguing with the sys op down at the end of the hall."
After some time, Bruce came back to us.
Bruce seemed still annoyed with me because I had banned him from using my Vic-20 after he blew the two fuses by unplugging the modem when it was still powered on. He would not admit this happened even though I watched him do it. Yet, now he had his own Apple IIe microcomputer with modem, so I thought he would be over it by now. Apparently not.
Bruce told Tom, "There's no chance we'll ever get to the two terminals by nine pm. Let's get out of here."
Tom said, "Even if only a slight chance, we have to stay! Dr. Silver made it very clear that his course can only be passed if the Spice simulations are done."
Bruce remarked, "I have an idea how to get our Spice done, but I don't want to discuss it in this line. Come on, Tom, let's go."
Those two were in front of me, so got me slightly closer to the two DecWriters, but not close enough to get even one minute on them when the Computer Center closed at nine pm.
The next day in EE 324, Dr. Silver looked furious.
In front of the whole class, Dr. Silver demanded to know, "Bruce Brown, did you modem in to Rapids River University's Vax computer between the hours of midnight to two am!"
Bruce looked surprised, but admitted, "Yes. I got the long-distance phone number from the sys op here. I don't see why this is a problem. All I did was complete the Spice assignment, and then Tom did the same after me."
"Thanks for mentioning me," Tom growled sarcastically.
Dr. Silver said, "I ought to kick you out of this class for cheating, Bruce! You too, Tom!"
Bruce defiantly said, "It's not cheating! It wasn't like I was putting on computer games or doing anything devious! All Tom and I did was complete the Spice programs that you assigned us! It's practically impossible to do it by waiting in those lines in the Computer Center! Tom and I waited for five hours for three days in a row, and never got one second of time on a terminal! I'm the one that has to pay the two hours of long-distance phone bill, not Cornfield University! I think I should be praised for getting the required work done this way, not condemned!"
Dr. Silver declared, "Bruce, you and Tom get a zero on this assignment for cheating. If you modem in again, I'll take further disciplinary actions."
The class seemed shocked by this. For the life of me, I could not figure out why what Bruce and Tom had done counted as cheating. It seemed above board to me.
On Thursday after waiting another four and a half hours in the line, I finally got to sit at the terminal. I started the editor when the sys op came out to tell me and the guy at the other terminal, "Sign out and leave. Now."
I looked at my watch, and protested, "We have half an hour."
The sys op said, "We're closing half an hour early tonight. Get off and leave."
The other guy said, "I've missed supper and waited four days just to finally get on here! You can't close early!"
The sys op declared, "If you don't get off now, I'm calling security!"
Both of us relented and left. I never found out why the place was closed half an hour early that day.
Dr. Silver seemed positively gleeful as only half the class had work to turn on the due date of Friday. The more students protested they were never able to get on despite waiting all day, the more he grinned.
What I found not funny at all is that my performance was so bad in Dr. Domain's Atomic and Nuclear Physics quiz. I had tried hard to study, but being in the terminal room from four pm to nine pm waiting in a line with the only seating being on the floor with constant loud drone of line printers and the punchcard reader had been terrible study conditions.
I was there when the Computer Center door opened, but even so, a dozen guys physically shoved me aside to get in front of me for the line for the two DecWriter terminals.
Still, it was only twelve ahead of me. However, then came about thirty line-cutters allowed in by their friends. By closing time at five pm, once more, I had not gotten to even touch a DecWriter. We were not allowed to use either of the two DecWriters on Sunday. Our Cornfield Computer Center was open on Sunday afternoon, so it seemed the ban came from Rapids River University.
On Monday in Dr. Silver's class, he returned the Spice printouts that he had graded over the weekend.
Somebody protested, "Why'd you give me a zero on this? It's the right answer."
Dr. Silver said, "There's a note explaining it. I told you to do this as individuals. If your code is identical complete to the variable names to another person's code, then you both get a zero."
The student claimed, "It was just a coincidence."
Dr. Silver countered, "In a full page of code, you're going to try to convince me that having everything identical is pure coincidence? I don't think so!"
The student glanced at the other student who had gotten a zero. Both certainly looked guilty! Neither made any other protest.
It turned out four students got this punishment of zeroes for having identical work, these two and another two. I had a zero because I never got on a terminal so had nothing to turn in, but about half the class was company for me on not yet having anything to turn in.
Later that Monday, I hurried over to the Computer Center as fast as I could when my other class let out at four pm. Again, I was too late by far. The line was already very long even though it was still an hour before the first login in was allowed.
I ended up about a few people back from the two DecWriters at around 8:30 pm. Once more, I realized I had waited five hours only not to get on at all. At least for the first time I was close enough that I could peer at the two DecWriters. I noticed Bruce was typing on one, with Tom behind him. An EE 224 student who did not know was at the other DecWriter.
I heard Bruce complain to Tom, "I have a fancy word processor on my Apple IIe. It is so much easier to edit on that then this line editor! Working line by line is so archaic!"
Standing behind him, Tom remarked, "I was using the word processor that Josh wrote on my Vic-20. He added a feature called global name change."
Bruce said, "My word processor on the Apple IIe has that, but it is called Search and Replace. I wonder if this line editor can do that. Hey, it does. It does every line in the file. That gives me an idea."
About ten minutes to closing, Bruce got his Spice program working and printed. Rather than having Tom sit at the terminal, Bruce told Tom, "Watch this."
In less than five minutes, Tom had his printout as well. The next person in line had just sat down when the sys op ordered all of us away.
The next day, I got in line as soon as I could at four pm. As usual, even though not allowed to login in until five pm, the line was already long. However, something was very different when students got to the DecWriters. The lines moved faster than before. I could see groups of students chatting away in groups of four-to-six. Rather than one person at the terminal, one would with the rest of his group huddled around him. It still took half an hour or so for the person at the keyboard to get his work done. However, it took less than five minutes more for each other person in the group to have their printout. I realized the secret of Global Name Change or Search-and-Replace had gotten out!
Around 8:15 pm, I got to sit at a DecWriter. Around half an hour later, I had completed my first Spice assignment. However, two students from the line came to stand right behind me.
One said, "Joel, you're good at this stuff. Do what those other students did for us, please."
I asked as if I didn't know quite well what they meant, "What's that?"
The other said, "See, your Spice code works. You named your two capacitors CAP1 and CAP2. Just change it to something like CAPA and CAPB, and then CAP01 and CAP02. Just so long as it's not identical. Nothing else will change, so the program will work without any debugging."
I replied, "That would be cheating. I'm done, the terminal is yours."
The first student said, "Fat lot of good that does with only fifteen minutes to closing!"
The next day, I had a Differential Equations quiz. I did the worst I had ever done in any math quiz at Cornfield University. Those huge hours every evening at the noisy Cornfield Computer Center were taking their toll on me for all my other courses. At least when EE 324 Linear Circuits met later that day, I had a Spice printout to turn in for the first time.
Dr. Silver looked over the large stack of turned in work and said, "This is much better. Since you've gotten better at Spice, here is your next Spice assignment."
This assignment was huge. I doubted anybody could get it done in under an hour, even if the search-and-replace function let people churn out undetectable copies every five minutes once the one working version was done.
Due to the length of this new assignment, once again it was for me at the terminal room from four pm to nine pm, never getting to a DecWriter.
For Friday's class in EE 324, Dr. Silver handed back the work that had been turned in. All who had turned it in had gotten good grades.
With a more relaxed attitude in the Computer Center on Saturday afternoon, groups gathered around the two DecWriters, doing the Spice through a chosen typist. Students talked openly with suggestions for renaming with the global-search-and-replace to fool Dr. Silver. A few like me were trying to adhere to the rule of working entirely on our own as Dr. Silver had demanded and invoked that we follow the Student Honor Code. There was almost no respect given anymore to time waited in line. All that mattered was what group you were in, and how much they could intimidate their way to the two terminals!
On Monday, I went to see Dr. Silver during his office hours.
I explained first that trying to put so seventy students through two 1200 baud DecWriters open only five pm to nine pm simply was untenable. I had had a total of half hour time on the Vax after coming an hour early every time and waiting every minute until kicked out at nine pm.
Dr. Silver replied, "That's clearly not true. If it were, lots more students would not be getting their Spice programs in."
I took a deep breath and then said, "Some of them are managing it with getting one person to solve it, then global-name-change it into three, four, or more disguised versions that are only superficially different. It takes less than five minutes to crank out a disguised version."
Dr. Silver sat up bolt upright and demanded, "Explain what you are talking about."
I told him, "Two students approached me after I had my Spice program working with variables of CAP1 and CAP2. They asked me to use global-name-change in the editor to something like CAPA and CAPB, then CAP01 and CAP02. I refused to do it."
Dr. Silver shot back, "Who asked you to do that? Who figured out how do it?"
I said, "I'm not snitching with any names. I just want you to be aware of the method."
Dr. Silver stood up and pointed at me, "You're the cheater! You just confessed!"
I tried to keep my voice calm as I said, "That doesn't make any sense. Why would I come here to tell you the method if it worked so well?"
Dr. Silver shouted, "For the same reason drug dealers sometimes turn in their rival drug dealers! Eliminate the competition! You're the cheater!"
What I typed for Dr. Silver is much edited by the way! In reality, he was using far more profanity than I had ever heard from a professor before.
I again protested that I was innocent!
Dr. Silver then shouted, and again I am leaving out his profanity, "If you don't go drop my class right now, I'm going to use this confession of cheating to get you expelled from Cornfield University! None of that slap-on-the-wrist getting a zero on one Spice program for this major infraction!"
I was in tears of frustration and rage as I left the office. I did not see any possible way to pass his class after this exchange, so he got his wish and his demand. I went over to the register and withdrew from his EE 324 Linear Circuits class.
Feeling terrible that evening, I made a long-distance phone call to my parents. I tried to explain what happened.
Dad responded angrily, "You got caught cheating!"
"No, I never cheated! That was Dr. Silver flipping my accusation around back at me!" I protested.
Dad said, "If the professor said that you cheated, then you cheated! You cannot lie your way out of it! You're forbidden from continuing in Electrical Engineering! You have younger siblings that also will be going to college soon. I will pay your room and board for four years, then no more. Go choose a new major where you can accomplish that!"
Mom countered that just possibly I was telling the truth.
Dad strongly disagreed, "Kids always lie when caught cheating! If this Dr. Silver claims the boy was cheating, then he was cheating! I knew the boy couldn't hack it in engineering!"
I went to see Albert Rose, Darnell Priest, and Gerald Jacobson to find out about the requirements for getting a bachelors degree in Computer Science.
Gerald was encouraging, explaining how I could get it done in four year, although I might need to go to summer school to make it in the time limit.
Darnell went to stand out the window as Gerald talked, then said, "I'm still working for Dr. Silver teaching him Xenix. I spend lots of time in the EE lab getting my lessons ready for him. I heard the EE students talking. Lord, I wish you'd talked to me first, Joel!"
I replied, "I simply told Dr. Silver the truth, and the Student Honor Code requires reporting this kind of widescale cheating."
Darnell said, "I know you're telling the truth! The EE students talk openly about doing that when Dr. Silver isn't around! Most would never cheat if not for such intolerable, impossible conditions! I need the money from the job, so I don't know what I can do to help you without losing my job!"
Gerald remarked, "I wondered what's been going on with the gigantic line in the Computer Center over the past couple weeks. I knew the line wasn't for the VT-100 terminals, as there hasn't been any waiting list for those during that time."
Albert said, "Dr. Silver has a fixation on EE students learning to use the Spice simulation software. That was abundantly clear with his questions at the presentations for the three mainframes!"
I put in, "The PDP-11 won't run Spice, and the IBM mainframe certainly can't. We have to modem long distance to Rapids River University's Vax."
Albert wondered, "Even with the decrease in long distance phone rates after five pm, what you're describing is four hours a night, four days in a row, then another four hours on Saturday. Who is paying for a solid twenty hours a week of long-distance phoning?"
I replied, "There are two DecWriters, so double that to forty hours a week. I have no idea as Dr. Silver never talked about that aspect."
Gerald playfully noted, "It's been nice having all you EE students not on the PDP-11 the last two weeks! I can just walk in and find an open terminal. The PDP is much more responsive with a lighter load. If Dr. Silver keeps this up the rest of the semester, passing my CS classes will be much easier!"
The three gave me the information I needed about Computer Science as a major. However, Gerald's comment how I might still need to take some classes in the summer given to complete Computer Science in four years had me thinking. If I could get Dad to reverse his ban on EE, then with summer school, I could still complete that in four years.
I made another long-distance phone call home. I told my parents that if I really was banned from continuing in EE, then switching to CS was workable. The hiring rate and starting salary was almost as good in CS as EE.
Dad was not shouting this time as he remarked, "I've looked back at your report cards so far at Cornfield University. It looks like you've never been off the Dean's List."
I replied, "That's correct, Dad."
Dad asked with some anger now in his voice, "Why'd you screw that all up by cheating?"
I said, "Whether you believe me or not, the fact remains that I did not cheat. In fact, this is punishment for whistleblowing and following the requirements of the Student Honor Code."
Mom got in, "Retaliation often does happen if an unpleasant but true situation is revealed."
Dad said as he had on the last call, "If the teacher says you were cheating, then you were cheating."
Yet, this time, Dad's voice lacked the concrete certainty he had the last time. I could tell that Mom had been working on him. I strongly believed during the entire rest of my life or his life, he would believe that I was the cheater. In Dad's mental world, the teacher was never the liar.
Despite the building long-distance charges, Mom said, "When I was an undergrad, I found out a bunch of papers were ghost written for a couple of the star players on our basketball team."
I asked, "Did you report it?"
Mom said, "Of course not! Think of what the retaliation would have been to me if I had! These were the stars of the team!"
Dad told me, "Joel, describe what happened again."
I did so.
Dad thoughtfully noted, "The mainframe at the paper company has an editor that can do global-name-change, just like you describe. A new programmer showed me how he was swapping in longer and more descriptive variable names in some code that previously just had X, Y, and Z."
I replied, "The better editors and word processors can all do that."
Dad said, "Nobody likes a tattler, son. If it went down as you said, then you should have just let it go. You do need to get done in four years. You can go to summer school if that will let you achieve that. Since you would need summer school now to get out in four years in Computer Science, could you make it in four years in EE with summer school?"
It seemed Dad might have gotten enough reasonable doubt on my supposed cheating to have changed his mind on the ban on EE, so I replied, "This summer, Linear Algebra is being offered. I could also get two Liberal Arts requirements out of the way this summer. That would more than make up for dropping Dr. Silver's class."
Dad asked, "You're taking Differential Equations now, aren't you?"
I said, "I am."
Dad declared, "Doing Linear Algebra this summer would be an adequate substitute for dropping Linear Circuits this semester, and doing the two Liberal Arts courses as well is a good idea. If you get good grades in all your classes this semester and do that this summer, then you can stay in EE."
I respectively replied, "Thanks, Dad."
Yet, I did not do it in a jubilant and victorious way. There were only four faculty members in EE. Taking courses with Dr. Silver again as a teacher was unavoidable if I stayed in EE. In fact, he was the only one teaching EE 324 Linear Circuits.
Word seemed to have gotten around that I was a tattler. All the EE students avoided me. Bruce Brown and Tom Anderson, who I had thought of before as close friends, had become openly hostile. I had never told Dr. Silver that I had watched them concoct the global-name-change idea, but it would have done no good to tell them as I knew that would not be believed. I was never to have a reconciliation with Bruce and Tom. Fortunately, the Computer Science friends I had of Albert Rose, Darnell Priest, Gerald Jacobson, and Simon William were kind and gentle, and seemed to know the real story.
In courses that had other EE students in them, like Dr. Domain's Atomic and Nuclear Physics, the EE students were barely civil to me. Despite these issues, I hated to feel like I was running away with my tail between my legs. Perhaps in defiance, I decided to stay in EE now that Dad had reversed his position.
Two weeks of barely being able to study in the evenings had hurt my other courses, but now that EE-324 was off my plate, I rapidly recovered academically. Eating supper again every night had me feeling much better physically as well. I had not really realized how skipping supper so often had taken a physical toll.
I started having some free time on weekends again. I went back to playing occasional D&D games with Simon William being Dungeon Master. I was touched when I realized that Bruce Brown and Tom Anderson were never part of the games that I played in even though both of them loved D&D.
The EE 324 class showed up as a withdrawal on my report card that Spring semester, so was not used as part of the overall gpa. I was still at thirteen credits even after dropping EE 324, so had completed a full load. I got some B's, which did not surprise me, but had A's as well, so barely crossed the magic 3.5 gpa boundary to once again be on the Dean's List. It seemed so absurd to me that I had nearly been forced out of EE despite my never-off-the-Dean's-List performance and having obeyed the Student Code of Conduct to the letter!
Much happened after the summer ended and at summer school, but I won't relate that just now. Suffice it to say that I got my A in Linear Algebra. I didn't quite to as well in the two Liberal Arts classes, but occasional B's are acceptable.
I was back in EE 324 Linear Circuits for the second time in the last week of August. Looking around, it appeared over a quarter of the students were taking it over again, not having passed it last semester. Those students just glared at me as if I were the Devil himself.
I thought, "Dad's right that nobody likes a tattler."
Dr. Silver came in. He did a double-take as he saw me. On purpose, I had taken a seat in the front row, dead center. I figured the only way I was going to survive this was not simply to keep my head down and blend in. That ship had sailed and was gone. I figured this was to be a battle of wills. As I still felt I was in the right even if I had been stupidly naive and overly idealistic in doing what I had done, I felt only in boldness was there any hope for me. This looked to be an ugly semester.
Looking at me uncomfortably more than was necessary, Dr. Silver explained, "Over the summer, Cornfield University has put in a new Vax mainframe. It has Spice circuit simulator installed."
He went on to explain that since EE 224 had also covered Spice, we had a big Spice assignment that was due Tuesday.
There were groans around the room as some students had planned to go home for the three-day Labor Day weekend. I had made no such plans, as I had figured Dr. Silver once more would toss on a giant load just to punish those who went away.
Dr. Silver then announced something that really did surprise me, "There is a large terminal room, about forty terminals, located here in the engineering building. Every EE student will have 24/7 access. Having 24/7 access is already the policy up at Bill-of-Rights University, so it is about time Cornfield University does the same thing. This will alleviate the problems of the Cornfield Computer Center closing every night at nine pm, and earlier on Friday and the weekend like last semester. Nobody will have an excuse now to not finish their Spice assignments."
While most of the class cheered over the 24/7 terminal room, I did not. I thought of what Josh Cistern had told me had happened with 24/7 terminal room access at Bill-of-Rights University with a massive increase in programming work as all the professors knew about the extended access.
Dr. Silver next explained, "For your Spice programs, you can work together in groups of up to four. The only requirement for that is that you write down who you work with."
I had moved for my Junior year to a new dorm room. I was Albert Rose's roommate. His roommate from the last school year, Mark Ronson, had dropped out of college to join the Army full time. Albert had gotten a ride back to Irate City for the three-day weekend, so had already left. There wasn't going to be a D&D game anyway because the DM Simon William was also heading off for the weekend. That was to be a weekend with Lori's parents. Their relationship had gotten serious.
There was a knock at the door. I opened it to see Darnell there.
Darnell said, "Albert said that I could use his Commodore 64 this weekend."
I replied, "He told me that. Help yourself. Do you need the modem connection?"
Darnell replied, "Not just yet."
I said, "I'll use it, then."
Using my Vic-20 and the 300 baud non-auto-dial modem that I still had on long-term loan from Josh Cistern, I tried the new phone number that was to connect to the new Vax computer. It worked fine.
I snapped to Darnell, "Your boss Dr. Silver has requirements and rules that make no sense to me!"
Darnell leaned back from Albert's Commodore 64 and asked, "What do you mean?"
I replied, "Last semester, he gave Bruce Brown and Tom Anderson both zeros on their first Spice lab because he claimed modeming in to Rapids River University's Vax mainframe was cheating. Yet, this semester, here I am logged into our new Vax, and it's not cheating! Dr. Silver encouraged students with microcomputers and modems to try it out this semester!"
Darnell responded with this bombshell remark, "I discovered nobody at Rapids River University complained about Bruce and Tom logging in. They logged in after midnight when their Vax had almost no load. A record was kept, so it was known that all they did was Spice programs for their homework. The problem with them logging in late at night was all from Dr. Silver here."
I replied, "I thought the problem was at the Rapids River University side. Another thing that Dr. Silver did this week greatly frustrates me! Now that Cornfield University has its own Vax, he is allowing us to work in groups of up to four. Encouraged it, really. Last semester, he called it cheating if all the Spice programs were not done individually! He gave students who had identical Spice programs a zero to drive home his point last semester! Consider all that hell I went through last semester! I made enemies out of almost every other EE student after being labeled a tattler! My Dad tried to force me out of EE! All that have been completely avoided if allowing working in groups of up to four had been allowed last semester."
Darnell frowned at me and said, "Good Lord, how can anybody be as naive as you are, Joel? Don't you see the larger picture even now?"
I replied, "I guess I don't."
Darnell suggested, "If you think of Dr. Silver as being deliberately cruel or evil, then you don't know him at all. He isn't. Quite the contrary, he's working his butt off to get the Cornfield University EE program off the ground. Only next year will there will be the first graduates in it. Nobody really knows yet if EE here will be a success. It's not established like Computer Science and all the other flavors of engineering offered here. EE is not even accredited here."
I said with concern, "I hadn't realized it wasn't accredited!"
Darnell said, "I think it will be accredited once eligible. There have to be graduates first, and then five years to evaluate them! It'll be about six years until accreditation for EE is even possible. That's how the rules work."
I replied, "I see."
Darnell said, "I don't think you do quite yet see. You'd act and say different things if you did see. Dr. Silver is giving all his attention and effort to making the EE program succeed. He's honest and honorable to a certain degree, but also extremely Machiavellian."
I asked, "What do you mean by that?"
Darnell said, "The problem with Bruce figuring out he could use his Apple IIe to modem to Rapids River University's Vax late at night is it worked too well! It would make getting the huge stack of Spice programs that Dr. Silver forced on you manageable. Similarly, doing the Spice programs in groups would have made it manageable. Now consider the cheating with the global-name-change technique."
I admitted, "Even now, I have sympathy to the students who did it. It seemed the only option to survive."
Darnell lectured, "I agree that most of those students would never have cheated if the situation was manageable in the first place. That kind of cheating would also have made the situation manageable. It wasn't supposed to be manageable! You'd have avoided lots of grief if you'd just realized that. I could have warned you if you had talked to me before telling Dr. Silver about the global-name-change method."
I asked bewildered, "Why would Dr. Silver want things to be unmanageable for the EE students?"
Darnell explained, "It had to do with the three mainframes that were under consideration last semester. It turns out it was nearly a done deal to get the IBM as the new mainframe! In Computer Science, the only faculty member against getting a new IBM mainframe was Dr. Patel. The other three just kept parroting that clever slogan about nobody every getting fired for buying an IBM. I think they really believe that! Dr. Silver needed to drive home very hard the great need for a computer that ran Spice here to get the EE program here taken seriously. Doing Spice through Rapids River University's Vax was supposed to be so hellish that you EE students would belly-ache to your other professors, to your parents, to other students, to various deans, and all the way up to the president of Cornfield University! Anything whether done honestly like modeming in late at night or dishonestly like the global-name-change trick relieved the pressure that was supposed to make life hellish to force out many loud complaints! This was a Machiavellian technique to get what he needed for a mainframe that ran Spice."
I admitted, "I never looked at that way."
Darnell said, "I figured you hadn't. Dr. Silver won! He has his Vax with Spice on it. He has a terminal room with 24/7 access. He got what he wanted, so can be much more reasonable now. The problem for you is you're branded a tattler. That won't ever go away as long as you stay at this university. You might consider transferring up to Bill-of-Rights University like your buddy Josh Cistern."
I replied, "Dad requires that I be done in four years. Having gotten three classes out of the way this summer, I can accomplish that here. Transferring causes problems and slows graduation. There is no way even with more summer school that I could be out in four years if I transfer."
Darnell sorrowfully predicted, "Then you're going to have a miserable and hard time as long as you are at Cornfield University. I feel sorry for you. My belief is the Student Code of Conduct is about pacifying parents and making potential employers happy than anything authentically followed! Don't be so naive!"
THE END OF CHAPTER TWELVE
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