Remember when: Professor Graham ate the output
Jack Schueler (BMath ’74) reflects on an unforgettable student experience
Every one of us has a few memorable moments in our lives that they will never forget.
This one goes back to my fourth undergrad year (1973-1974) at the University of Waterloo. As a student, I was working part-time for Professor J. W. (Wes) Graham of the Faculty of Mathematics.
I was alerted to something special that was going to take place in one of the amphitheater lecture halls on the second floor of the Mathematics & Computer (MC) building.
Professor Wes Graham, as many of you may know, was pivotal in creating the computer science program at Waterloo. Among his duties as a professor, he usually taught a first-year undergrad course in computer science. Occasionally, a student would challenge Wes on some point of programming — whether it was about FORTRAN or COBOL. And normally, Wes would say, “prove it to me.”
In my experience, Wes was notorious at being able to sit down and try a software demo that you were proudly showing off and have it crash. You learned very quickly to never make bets when it came to software.
So it was with some amazement that Wes said to the class, “No, I am positive you are wrong. In fact, if you can prove otherwise, I will eat the output.”
Back then, the program listing and output were printed on paper.
Wes should have known better. At the very next class, his student showed up with the “proof.” Being a man of his word, Wes promised to carry out his task at the next lecture.
"The attendance was enormous — standing room only — and likely one of the best attended classes in Waterloo history. Word had gotten around."
On this special day, there was Wes in the lecture hall armed with a tea kettle, bottle of water, can of tomato soup, scissors, can opener, blender and the paper output. The attendance was enormous — standing room only — and likely one of the best attended classes in Waterloo history. Word had gone around.
Wes regaled everyone, stating that his doctor had assured him he would survive the ordeal with no lasting side effects. Taking scissors in hand, Wes carefully cut out the program listing and output leaving as much white-space behind as possible. Water was added to the kettle and set to boil. Once done, hot water, soup and paper were added to the blender and seriously ground up.
Wes had forgotten one thing: a cup. Once the concoction cooled a bit, he chugged it straight from the blender.
You could have heard the laughter and cheers ’round the entire first and second floors of MC. I will never forget that day.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Indigenous Initiatives Office.