Everyday Computing, Features

Flow of Control

Image of Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultantbina

THE planned increase in tuition and other fees announced by SALCC on July 31st came shock, partly because of the quantum (100% increase) and partly because of the tight time frame for introducing the change (one month). By any measure, that is a steep rise, despite the value which an SALCC education provides. As a past student, I am grateful to have benefited from the a strong SALCC education, and even received academic course credits for my SALCC grades when I attended university! I have also watched in dismay as the College buildings and infrastructure have slowly deteriorated over time, and recognised the need for change.

Given the leap in the fees and the short time for its implementation, it was unsurprising that the Government was prompted to step in, to halt the fee increase, and contribute an extra three million dollars to the College. The capacity of parents and guardians to respond so rapidly to that untimely change was questionable.

Computer systems deal with a related problem where the high volume of data produced by one process exceeds the capacity of another slower component to accept that volume of data. Flow control is the technical name for managing this difference, typically by forcing the fast process to reduce output to match the abilities of the slower process. This is an important concept because it allows a mismatch in processing capacity to be easily managed. For example, the use of traffic lights to regulate the frequency of pedestrians crossing a busy road is a form of flow control, because a larger number of people may safely and efficiently cross the road. When you print a file, the print job might be buffered, to allow the relatively slow printer to cope with the higher speed output from the computer.

As you could imagine, if the rate of change is moderate, then the need for flow control might not be immediately noticed. In the case of SALCC, a smaller increase announced over a longer time frame, with more time to adjust, might have achieved the same objective in a more budget-friendly manner. A useful lesson to other agencies that customer expectations might not be as flexible or responsive as they might wish for. If there is no buffer available, then slow and steady wins the race.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.

About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and capacity building.

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