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Flow Control Protocols and Lucille Ball

It's never a good idea to explain yourself too much,  and I'm too long-winded anyway, but I still feel compelled to explain something. I talk about things in my classroom besides pop culture. My students really do learn some computer science. Of course you wouldn't know that from reading this blog. But FERPA makes it dicey to write about interactions with individual students, and the actual material might put a lot of readers to sleep (although I make an occasional exception to that second one). With that out of the way, I introduced the subject of flow control to my networks class Thursday. Flow control is dealing with the problem of one computer sending data too quickly to another computer. I always point out to my classes that the overwhelmed receiving computer is a lot  like The Candy Factory episode of I Love Lucy.

I describe Lucy's struggle to keep up with the assembly line of chocolates, adding  that "hilarity ensues." I then tell them that ensuing hilarity is a good design principle for sitcoms, but not for computer networks. I have used this illustration for many semesters. It's simple, fitting and entertaining. I was talking about it one day in the coffee shop a few years back. An anthropology professor overheard me and told me she talks about the candy factory episode in her classes too! (Obviously to illustrate some entirely different topic.) Apparently The Candy Factory episode is a universal parable.