Don Piele



In 1974, a couple years before the first personal computer and before Russ, Hal, and Brian were born; a magazine called Creative Computing began in David Ahl’s basement. It contained, among other things, computer games written in BASIC. The programs ran on time-shared systems with Teletype machines hooked up to an HP or DEC minicomputer – a typical configuration for the time. 

That was the landscape when I started the International Computer Problem Solving Contest (ICPSC) and distributed it through Creative Computing. At its zenith in the mid 80’s, when most of you were born, it attracted competitors from 45 states and 15 countries and involved over an estimated 10,000 participants (boys AND girls) from grades 4 to 12 spread over three divisions. The programming languages were BASIC, Logo, Pascal and in the final years C. 

In 1992, I took the first USA team to the 4th IOI in Germany because no one else did. The team was chosen by their rankings in the ICPSC.  On our very first try, Nate Bronson and Shawn Smith each won a gold medal. That amount of gold was not been repeated by a USA team until last year at IOI 2003.

It turned out that both Nate and Shawn had participated in RSI at the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE). When we returned home, CEE learned about their success and offered to assist me in putting together the first USACO in the summer of 1993.  I also received a phone call from Rob Kolstad who, with a long history of programming competitions, was eager to coach at the USACO camp. To make a long story short, Rob and I declined to become part of CEE and struck off on our own with USENIX as our sponsor in 1995.  The rest is history. This will be our 12th USACO training camp.

One thing you will notice about our coaches - made up of previous USA team members - they keep coming back year after year. I believe there are two reasons for this; 1) they like to be amused by Rob and, 2) they just have to try one more time to beat me at disc golf. It should be easy, I haven’t practiced all year. (I always tell them that.)

 So Rob and I will try our best to make sure our coaches are happy and, along with them, make your camp very hard but fun.  You wouldn’t want it any other way.

My formal training is in Mathematics with a PhD from the UCSD in 1970. I wrote a column, “How To Solve It with the Computer” for many years in Creative Computing until it faded away in the late 80’s. Recently I have been writing a column “Mathematica Pearls” for Mathematica in Education and Research and I wrote an “Informatics” column in Quantum Magazine before it disappeared. My love is still programming but the language now is Mathematica. This combines everything I love about solving problems with a powerful kernel and a unique functional programming language.

We are looking forward to meeting you all soon at camp.