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The Guinness snub you've never heard of

Code snippet

Have you ever heard of our department’s Guinness World Records snub? Well, of course you haven’t; it wouldn’t be much of a snub otherwise.

Guinness has a nice collection of file and code-related records in their database - oldest programming language still in use (FORTRAN), most Raspberry Pis used in parallel (750), and most complex HTML 5 code in a video game (152,472 lines, plus 421,196 lines of client-side scripting), to name a few.

What they don’t have on file is the record for “oldest maintained code on world’s most popular code file exchange,” and that nifty little record belongs to one of our very own electrical and computer engineering faculty. Dr. David Long’s file ellipse.m has been maintained in MATLAB’s file exchange system for 22 years and 158 days. Although the age in code years is unknown, that equals 104 cat years.

Ellipse.m adds ellipses to users’ graphing plots. It has aged well; it was featured as MATLAB’s Pick of the Week in 2011 when it was twelve years old, and it still receives five-star reviews. Users praise it as very helpful, clean and simple.

MATLAB - essentially Shutterstock for programmers - has been around since 2001, so ellipse.m outdates not only most college undergraduates but its own file exchange. It is one of two surviving files from an autonomous FTP server, which MATLAB describes as a crude forerunner to the File Exchange. MATLAB also clarified that dinosaurs did not roam the earth at the same time.

Long’s commitment to maintaining ellipse.m means nobody is going to take this record title from him anytime soon. It is his. In the entirely unbiased opinion of the BYU Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, this qualifies for Guinness World Record glory. After all, if there’s a record for first village to 3D-print all of its residents (Torrequebradilla, Spain), or longest human tunnel travelled through by a skateboarding dog (Otto the bulldog, thirty people), then the ever-useful and relatively-ancient ellipse.m is more than deserving.

We as a department recognize ellipse.m doesn’t need a certificate or recognition to do what it does best: build beautiful ellipses for coders in need. But we also recognize that recognition doesn’t hurt. And Guinness is looking for a record-holder for the largest 3D-printed QR code (we’re not asking why), and we just so happen to have 3D printers in our ELC.

Maybe we can achieve world record glory yet. Come on Cougars, it’s up to you!