"IMHO, having students do computer games projects is absolutely the best possible way to teach programming, graphics, software engineering, object oriented programming, etc."
I'm assuming that Niven and Pournelle got this idea from NASA's minimalist Personal Rescue Enclosure:
The ball was 36 inches (86 cm) in diameter and had a volume of 0.33 cubic meters. The structure was comprised of three fabric layers and incorporated a window and a zipper to allow the astronaut to enter and exit the ball. The ball enabled one crew member to curl up inside and don an oxygen mask and hold a carbon dioxide scrubber/oxygen supply device with one hour worth of oxygen.
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