TITLE: Today I Wrote a Program AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 06, 2007 8:16 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Today I wrote a program, just for fun. I wrote a solution to the classic WordLadder game, which is a common nifty assignment used in the introductory Data Structures course. I had never assigned it in one of my courses and had never had any other reason to solve it. But my daughter came home yesterday with a math assignment that included a few of these problems, such as converting "heart" to "spade", and in the course of talking with her I ended up doing a few of the WordLadder problems on my own. I'm a hopeless puzzle junkie. Some days, an almost irrational desire to write a program comes over me, and last night's fun made me think, "I wonder how I might do this in code?" So I used a few spare minutes throughout today to implement one of my ideas from last night -- a simple breadth-first search that finds all of the shortest solutions in a particular dictionary. A few of those spare minutes came at the public library, while the same daughter was participating in a writers' workshop for youth. As I listened to their discussion of a couple of poems written by kids in the workshop in the background, I thought to myself, "I'm writing here, too." But then it occurred to me that the kids in the workshop wouldn't call what I was doing "writing". Nor would their workshop leader or most people that we call "writers". Nor would most computer scientists, not without the rest of the phrase: "writing a program". Granted, I wasn't writing a poem. But I was exploring an idea that had come into my mind, one that drove forward. I wasn't sure what sort of program I would end up, and arrived at the answer only after having gone down a couple of expected paths and found them wanting. My stanzas, er, subprocedures, developed over time. One grew and shrank, changed name, and ultimately became much simpler and clearer than what I had in mind when I started. I was telling a story as much as I was solving a problem. When I finished, I had a program that communicates to my daughter an idea I described only sketchily last night. The names of my variables and procedures tell the story, even without looking at too much of their detail. I was writing as a way to think, to find out what I really thought last night. Today I wrote a program, and it was fun. -----