The first appearance of live parsing
and color syntax highlighting in LEXX,
a text editor.
1 billion terabytes
The year the first high-level programming
language, FOR TRAN or formula translation,
was invented by John Backus of IBM.
Here’s an ACM member
benefit worth knowing about:
MentorNet, as the name
suggests, provides a mentoring
relationship between students
and professionals. ACM
student members can sign
up and be put into contact
with a mentor who will offer
advice in a number of areas.
During the sign-up process,
which is relatively painless,
you are asked exactly which
areas you would like advice on,
from career progression to self
confidence, to women’s issues.
You also get to request certain
preferences of your mentor,
including his or her location,
academic qualifications, and
After signing up, MentorNet
displays a number of potential
mentor profiles, describing the
person and the kind of advice
they feel they can offer. Choose
a mentor, and assuming she
or he accepts, you can start
to swap emails immediately.
Unsurprisingly, this is the
valuable part of the experience!
Being a student can be very
isolating, and having a mentor
gives you another relationship
to depend upon, and one
that is not based within your
university, a boon for most
of us—no worrying about it
affecting our marks!
MentorNet also offers a
forum and resource centre
that pays particular attention
to diversity issues. Sign up and
give it a go: http://www.acm.
Five Programming Tips
Start Your Coding Career
During college, your course in- structors might not be teach- ingyouindustry-standardpro- gramming techniques. While
ad-hoc coding may be acceptable for
an assignment that you’ll never look at
again, coding practice throughout industry is typically highly regimented.
It’s that way entirely out of necessity.
Companies may have legacy (gasp COBOL!) code older than you. This code
has likely changed hands dozens of
times and needs to be understood by
anyone who touches it.
Follow these five tips to keep your
code organized and understandable.
Comment often. You should comment each significant block of code
you write—even more, if your heuristics may be difficult to follow. Try to
keep your comments consistent, concise, and clear. Whether you use double
slashes or semi-colons, keep the same
Format code consistently. Be consistent with formatting. Do you indent
with four spaces or with a tab character? Check with a manager or super-
Working on code is
very often a team
effort, so always
think about who else
will have to deciper
it, correct it, or
visor to see if there’s a set standard
within the company. No matter what
method you choose, keep it consistent.
Pay attention to other people’s formatting conventions, too, and see if there
is anything to be learned by reading
between the lines.
Use one naming convention. Stick to
one naming convention and use it all
the way through. ‘Int1’ does not convey much information and can be easily confused. Use descriptive names to
convey what will be contained in the
variable. Append a few letters to describe the variable type: ‘Int1’ could become ‘int TotalCost.’ Again, check with
a supervisor or colleague to find out of
there is a preferred naming convention
used in your company or division.
Avoid globals. Avoid globals if possible. No really, they are more hassle
than they are worth.
Fail gracefully. Check return values
from functions to help spot errors. Report any errors with as much detail as
possible. This makes debugging much
Perfection is impossible. However,
with proper documentation and consistency, others should be able to read
and decipher your code for future
work. Remember that working on code
is very often a team effort, so you want
to always think about who else will
have to decipher your code, correct it,
or change it.
These five simple and commonsense suggestions are probably the
most beneficial ways to improve your
code and its associated documentation quickly and get you off on the right
foot at a new job or in working with a
new team. Happy coding!