I got an awesome email today from an old WebTV coworker's dad today.
Jos (pronounced "yose") was an amazing guy. One of those people you just couldn't be in a bad mood around, who was always creating these wacky side projects that were sometimes more successful than some of the company's main projects.
One of my favorite Jos projects was called Don't Fear the OOP. It's a brief, informative and highly entertaining tutorial on "why coding Java (or any other object-oriented programming) is just like writing a trashy Western novel." Each page was separated into three sections: explanation in normal English, using cheesy Western novel metaphors; pseudo-code that was still readable, but structured more like code; and actual Java code. Add in a bit of Jos-patented humor, and it really is a brilliant way of teaching object-oriented programming.
Sadly, Jos died not too long after completing the tutorial (and the WebScissors tool that I maintain on his family's behalf). Healthiest man I knew, and he died of a heart attach at his desk one day. Just like that. I suppose it's true what they say: "You get what everyone gets; you get a lifetime."
But Jos really did something with his. (Besides the obvious, of leaving behind scores of people who loved him dearly.) It's been... wow, has it really been almost a decade since we lost Jos? And yet his WebScissors tool is still getting a few thousand hits a day, and his Don't Fear the OOP tutorial is still out there on the web, helping people get friendly with Java.
Which brings us back to the letter. Jos's pops just forward this email that he got from a high school programming teacher (does it make me old that that's a foreign concept?) who stumbled upon Don't Fear the OOP and used it to great effect in his class.
Dear Mr. Claerbout,
I am a new teacher of Computer Science at my high school. As this is my first year teaching Java, I am forever searching the internet for just the "right" thing to help open the doors of understanding to my students. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to somehow come across Don't fear the OOP! that your son wrote. I loved it. I knew my students that soon would be approaching the classes/methods section would love it. I knew it would open doors for them in a realm that is difficult at best to understand.
Yesterday, I used your son's material in my classroom (I changed "whiskey" to "soda" and "drunkenness" to levels of "having to go to the bathroom" to keep it high school appropriate). My kids (whose mean age is 16) loved it. I watched as student by student anticipated what was coming next. I watched as they were really grasping binders (classes) and chapters (subclasses) and methods, all the while laughing and enjoying class.
Today I wanted to look up the address of the author and thank them for what they did, and for making it public for others to read and learn. I was shocked to see that a young man with the world ahead of him was no longer in this world. What a great person your son seemed to be.
Since I cannot thank him, the next best thing I can do is thank you. Thank you for allowing your son's material to be public so that others can continue to learn from him. I wish I could have met your son.
Cinco Ranch High School
How frikkin cool is that? I wonder if anything I've produced will still be alive and kicking a decade after I've passed on. It's an inspiring thought.