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
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
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.