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I'm currently working on a speech introducing an introduction to C++ programming manual. The speech itself is going to be about the topics within the manual (which are very basic concepts, such as data types, ect..) I'll be giving this speech to students who are not familiar to C++ or even programming in general, and I'm looking for an attention grabber to begin my speech with such as a fun fact or quote about C++, or an interesting statistic regarding C++. I am wanting something the students will understand, and that sparks their interest. Does anyone have any good ideas that I can use? Thanks!

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

"How many of you use Facebook?"

While this opener is only somewhat related to C++ (see: the PHP-C++ process that FB uses), you mentioned that your audience isn't familiar with programming at all. This concept would grab the attention of the majority of your audience and I'm sure you could adapt it to make it more applicable to the rest of your presentation.

Following that, you could go on to pick a commonly used facet of Facebook itself (e.g. a wall post, friend request, etc.) and describe the functionality involved behind the process.

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Awesome, I think this is perfect! Thanks. –  enlgmatlc Apr 5 '11 at 22:06
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Stone Knives and Bearskins. That's what our languages are today. The lack of progress in language technology is staggering.

C++ is 31 years old this year. It is strongly based on C and Simula which were born 42 and 45 years ago respectively. During the last 31 years the language had changed a bit. The first edition of "The C++ Programming Language", published in 1985, had 327 pages. The second edition, published in 1991 had 669 pages. The Third edition, published in 1997 has over 1000 pages.

This may seem like a massive amount of change. And it is. However, the computers that execute C++ have changed many times more. In 1980, the year of C++'s birth, a powerful computer had a 1us cycle time, 64k of RAM, and 20MB of disk. It might cost $100K in todays dollars. Today your laptop probably has 8GB of RAM, 500GB of SSD, A 0.34ns cycle time and cost $4k. That's five orders of magnitude more Ram, 4 more of offline memory, 3 more of speed, and two more of cost. Conservatively speaking computers have grown in power by over 14 orders of magnitude.

And there's our dilemma. Our machines have vastly outstripped our languages. For all intents and purposes we are trying to fly F22 Raptors using stone knives and bearskins.

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Your computer is most likely running a variant of Intel's x86 chip or one of its descendants, which was originally created in 1976. That's even older than C++. In the same way, your suit and penknife are just improved models of stone knives and bearskins. Sometimes the basic design just works. –  Ant Apr 6 '11 at 12:52
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The hardware has gotten bigger and faster. It hasn't changed much in actual function in over forty years. (Exceptions: multiple processors are far more common, and hard disks are no longer removable media.) The programming languages and techniques have changed much more than that. –  David Thornley Apr 6 '11 at 13:37
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