Origin of 101

What is the origin of the term, 101?

It was the room in BBC headquarters where George Orwell worked as a news broadcaster, he hated it.
There was a docu on two nights ago on BBC2 otherwise I would not have known this.

The term ‘Room 101’ comes from the book 1984 by George Orwell and is a room that is used for torture that contains “the worst thing in the world” for that particular victim.

But you could mean the Americanism ‘101’ which is added to a word, such as for example “mortgage” where “Mortage 101” would be a brief introduction to mortgages.

I think it comes from the courses at American university, with the most basic courses being labelled 101 (i.e. Maths 101).

I think the first 1 refers to the year(?) and the (01) refers to the module(?).

I assumed this question related to classes … like why is the basic class always subject 101? If it’s the first one, why not just subject 1?

That’s the way I interpreted the question, anyhow. And I don’t know the answer to that, either.

yup my question refers to why the basics in subjects are labelled 101

MC is right about course numbering. To address interface2x’s question, the first digit of a course number gives a general idea of what year student would be expected to take the course, although not a rule. A 2nd-year student can take 400-level courses, etc. This even extends to 500-level courses for graduate students.

They always start with x01 as the first course, which is usually a prerequisite for any others in the same department. So Anything 101 is generally an introduction to the department for first-year students. The idea has floated out of the academic world as a cute way of describing an overview of a topic where the audience is expected to have no knowledge.

The British University (Birmingham) that I attended used the same course numbering scheme. 1xx courses were for first years, 2xx for second years and so on.

I did maths and MS (Maths and Stats) 101 was Algebra 1, the most basic and fundamental course.

I’ve seen plenty of classes that were, say, Math 100, though. Does this imply a remedial class?

Yes, remedial classes are usually numbered Math 100, Reading 70, or English 83. Sometimes the choice of number seems arbitrary.

There’s variation in the system, too. At Villanova, course numbers were four digits, so 20xx-29xx or so would be sophomore level courses, for instance. And I’ve heard that at Caltech, they do just start from 1, so the first freshman physics course would just be Physics 1. Of course, this latter system makes it more difficult to add new courses.

In my experience subject 101=the introductory course, is really a misnomer. At my schools (UCSD and UCLA) two digit numbers denoted lower division courses, while all three-digit courses were upper division, tending to be the more advanced ones.

From what I’ve seen, the class numbering system varies all over the map. Within each university the numbering system indicates something about level and/or subject, but the meaning is different from school to school. For example, MIT’s math department has one of the more intricate systems, as you might expect. (Note “math”, not “maths”, in an American university, but that’s another thread right there.) (Also note that topology classes get the highest numbers, as is only fitting.) The school at which I currently teach generally uses numbers from 1 to 99 for elementary courses, numbers from 100 to 199 for advanced courses, and numbers 200 and above for graduate courses, but with essentially no system within these ranges.

Thinking about the great variety of systems makes the OP particularly interesting. Why did “101” catch the public’s imagination? Or, who popularized it?