Code of honour

 

IRISH students won medals at an international programming competition in Holland last year and the organisers of the national competition hope to do even better this year. A national team will be picked during the Third All Ireland Schools Programming competition at Dublin City University on April 13th and 14th.

Even if you're not a student, it's worthwhile putting your computer to a new use and actually programming it. Stepping outside the cosy world of games and ready made applications to do your own programming can be time consuming and frustrating, but also great fun. You'll also get to know your computer much better than you ever will by pressing buttons in someone else's program.

The first step towards the national competition is the first round problems printed on this page. These can be tackled at home or at school. Second level students who are aged under 20 on July 1st this year are eligible to enter the competition, which is sponsored by IBM and DCU.

Some of these first round problems are easy and some less so. But even a relatively simple problem can be solved in many different ways. Some of the solution programs will be much neater and more elegant than others.

Neat, creative programming is what the organisers, Charlie Daly and Michael Cotter of DCU, want to encourage. The competition's primary aim is to stimulate the activities of students interested in programming. While the competition is for second level students, they need not be taking computer studies at school. Any student who has access to a computer and can tackle these problems is welcome to enter.

To enter, they should complete as many of the problems as possible (it is not necessary to complete five). The programs can be in, any high level programming language, such as BASIC, Pascal, or C. Assembly language and code are not allowed - so no peek or poke commands.

For each problem the student should send on paper:

. The output from the program;

. A description of the program, noting any unusual features;

. A printout of the program itself.

Entries should state how much time was, spent on the program and what help (if any) the entrant had. The printouts should be accompanied by the official entry form, which is being posted to every second level school in the country or can be obtained from DCU.

Approximately 100 of the best entrants from this first round will be invited to DCU for a two day programming playoff at Easter. There will be new problems and fast PCs for the finalists to use, competing against each other and the clock. First round entries should reach DCU by March 1st, and finalists will be notified by March 20th.

Whether you are entering the competition or just doing the problems for the sake of it the most important thing is to enjoy it.