In 1978, Jim Davis launched Garfield, a newspaper comic strip that featured the title character cat, his owner Jon Arbuckle and fellow pet Odie. Over the decades that have followed since its first appearance, the popularity of Garfield has grown exponentially and currently holds the Guinness World Record for most widely syndicated comic strip, appearing in approximately 2,580 publications. Garfield’s personality traits are also well known, including his disdain for Mondays and love of lasagna. In December 2013, meanwhile, the fun-loving feline added a new profession to his already lengthy resume, this time as an education tool for high school students learning the art of animation and computer programming.
Garfield’s latest role comes courtesy of Alice, an educational software developed at Carnegie Mellon University. Alice allows users to create simple animation videos by selecting various characters, props and scenes from a 3D gallery and then drag-and-dropping them into place on their computer screen. Alice was originally the brainchild of the late Randy Pausch, a CMU computer science professor who published the life-affirming book Last Lecture before his death. “The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they’re learning something else,” he once remarked in regards to Alice. “They’re learning to program, but they just think they’re making movies and video games.” The approach has been a successful one, as Alice has not only become a popular teaching tool in middle and high schools throughout the country, but colleges and universities as well.