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By | Phil Manchester 17th March 2008 20:37

Uncovered: the lost humor of flowcharts

Luke, feel the flow

It's not easy to make software amusing, as a recent contest to crack jokes using Universal Modeling Language (UML) demonstrated.

But flowcharting George Lucas' plan to kill off the Star Wars franchise? Now that's not just funny, it might also be true.

A competition has invited geeks and practitioners to map out the top twenty insane super villain schemes using flowcharts.

Among Reg Dev's favorites: L. Ron Hubbard's history of Scientology, landing at number 16, and the adolescent villain, coming in a number 12.

The competition shows that the art of flowcharting is alive and well - even if it has little to do with programming nowadays.

Back in the 1960s, of course, IBM's handsome green flowcharting template was a prized tool that every programmer coveted. There were other templates - but the IBM version was the one to have. It was thinner, the symbol shapes were neater and they were rare. You had to be an IBMer - or know somebody - to get hold of one. Now flowcharts - if they are used at all - are prepared with graphics programs such as the open source Devflowcharter and, sadly, you are unlikely to see a programmer toting a plastic template.

But enough of this. If you missed out on's flowcharting competition, there is another opportunity to demonstrate your smarts. This week's competition is: Error messages you never want to see, which ends on Wednesday, 19 March, and comes complete with a $50 prize.

Funny things, error messages...®

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