Weight Loss for Programmers

Posted November 18, 1998 at 1:44 am 5 Comments

Let’s face it: a lot of computer science majors are overweight. The reason for this is obvious — it’s difficult to stay in shape when you spend the majority of your waking hours in front of a computer. You can’t blame the CS majors for doing this; often, long stints in front of the computer are unavoidable. That’s why if we want to end the problem of obesity among CS majors, we need to offer more than just the naïve suggestion of dragging them away from the computer clusters.

Ethan and I came up with a far more practical solution: the integration of programming and athletics. If computer use and aerobic exercise could somehow be combined, long hours spent in front of a computer would actually make a positive contribution to physical fitness. Here are a couple of examples of how such an idea might be implemented:

  • Mobile Rotating Workstation Units

Instead of having the computers in the cluster remain stationary, why not affix each computer to a rapidly moving wheeled platform? These platforms could drive around a circular track at a moderate jogging speed (approximately 6 mph). In order to work on one of the cluster computers, you’d have to keep pace with it. When you became overly fatigued, you’d have to save your work and log out rapidly before your computer left you behind. Think of how many calories you would burn on a computer architecture assignment! “I coded for 10 miles today,” you could brag to your friends. All-night coding marathons would become all the rage, and CS majors would start looking fit and trim.

  • Bicycle Clocked Processors

The idea here is that each computer in the cluster would be attached to a stationary bicycle, and the computer and the bicycle would be interfaced in such a way that the speed of the bicycle wheel would dictate the speed of the processor. For example, the processor on the Alpha workstations used in my computer systems course could be rigged to carry out 72 billion operations per mile. With a few calculations, we can see that in such a scenario, a pedaling speed of 20 mph would lead to a clock speed of 400 MHz, while pedaling at a leisurely pace of 10 mph would provide a clock speed of only 200 MHz. CS majors would be able to pedal slowly when carrying out simple tasks such as checking e-mail or reading bulletin boards, but in order to carry out more processor-intensive computational procedures such as image processing or MP3 decoding, they would have to crank up the pace. Imagine: you’ve finally finished coding your operating systems project, and now it’s time for the final compile. Taking a swig from your water bottle, you turn to your partner and shout, “time to overclock this motherfucker!” Sweating profusely and pedaling madly in an all-out sprint, you watch as your kernel compiles with blazing speed.


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  1. these r not very good ideas but i think ideas r valuable things. ur ideas can open new horizons in computer related people health.
    innovation always recieve rewards from GOD(ALLAH)
    that all my dear
    Carry on giving new ideas to mankind…. u will find me with u ……………

    Syed Abid Ali
    MSc Computer Science
    UET Lahore Pakistan
    Jugnoo Of UET CS

    Comment by Jugnoo of UET CS Lahore — April 28, 2006 #

  2. absolutely absurd i think to keep one self fit there is time for every one to take a walk just for 1/2 an hour .this suggested solution is completely impractical.

    Comment by sadia — April 29, 2006 #

  3. Wow, I can’t believe that two different people stumbled upon this blog post 8 years later and both of them thought it was serious and felt the need to criticize it.


    That first guy’s web page is pretty hilarious though. He could be the next Mahir. I like how it says “I have play every game except….. cheating.”

    Comment by monzy — June 6, 2006 #

  4. Maybe you weren’t serious, but, apparently, others were: http://hardware.slashdot.org/hardware/06/10/09/2045233.shtml

    Comment by Andy — October 9, 2006 #

  5. You posted this in 1998?! This page is an antique in internet age!

    Comment by Mr. Beer Belly — January 3, 2007 #

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