IT was encouraging to observe the expressions of relief of those who prepared for the 2018 Common Entrance Exams on Wednesday last week. A big day especially for the students, and we wish them every success in passing for their desired choice. Despite the pressure placed on the families, parents, guardians and students, it takes a certain confidence to approach a test, do one’s best, and then hope for a successful outcome. While sympathising with views about the high level of pressure experienced by these young people, the reality is that we are all tested, in some form or the other, on a regular basis. In a professional work environment, the non-routine work requirements are their own test of our mettle, capacity, and creativity.
Computers too, are not immune from routine tests during normal operation. At a low level, a computer must test its environment, and take appropriate action, for example:
*) Is a connection to the internet available?
*) Is the printer busy or is it ready?
*) Does the user have permission to read the file?
In fact, if a computer did not have to make any decisions about the next step in its processing pipeline, then it would probably not be a very interesting device at all. In part, what makes a computer so useful and powerful is the ability to take actions based on the outcome of a test, and do so in a consistent and safe manner.
Therefore, what makes a computer programmer or system designer so powerful is the degree to which they can accurately specify tests to be processed by the computer in its environment, and the appropriate action to follow, based on the outcome of the tests.
When the notion of a test can be considered without the weight and emotion of a borderline student, and perhaps embraced with a greater degree of self-assurance, then maybe we would have arrived at a point where we do not even need such tests. In any case, let’s hope that our students survived this rite of passage unscathed, ready for the larger tests that stand ahead of them.
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About the Author
Dr. Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and capacity building.