Report on the tenth ICFP programming contest

Eelco Dolstra, Jurriaan Hage, Bastiaan Heeren, Stefan Holdermans, Johan Jeuring, Andres Löh, Clara Löh, Arie Middelkoop, Alexey Rodriguez, John van Schie. Report on the tenth ICFP programming contest. In James Hook, Peter Thiemann, editors, Proceeding of the 13th ACM SIGPLAN international conference on Functional programming, ICFP 2008, Victoria, BC, Canada, September 20-28, 2008. pages 397-408, ACM, 2008. [doi]


The ICFP programming contest is a 72-hour contest, which attracts thousands of contestants from all over the world. In this report we describe what it takes to organise this contest, the main ideas behind the contest we organised, the task, how to solve it, how we created it, and how well the contestants did.

This year’s task was to reverse engineer the DNA of a stranded alien life form to enable it to survive on our planet. The alien’s DNA had to be modified by means of a prefix that modified its meaning so that the alien’s phenotype would approximate a given “ideal” outcome, increasing its probability of survival. About 357 teams from 39 countries solved at least part of the contest. The language of choice for discriminating hackers turned out to be C++.