On Programming: The Dave Shields Hacker’s Challenge

In response to my recent post, On Programming and David Corbin’s Challenge: “I defy anyone to pick a hardware platform, and programming language; then provide a small (one page) sample of code, and be able to COMPLETELY describe what happens when the code executes.”, David Corbin, the creator of the Corbin Challenge, just sent me the following note via LinkedIN:

I have posted both on linked in, and in more depth on your first blog entry.

The entire point of the challenge (both when given to me over thrity years ago and when I issue it to others) is to start one thinking about the difference between relevant and insignificant material. Especially in the context where different situations may completely change what is relevant and/or significant; even if the “thing” (in this case code) does not change at all…..

This has prompted me to publish my own challenge. I thought of it several years ago, and last gave it to someone two days ago. No one has yet answered it correctly. It is based on the several months I spent during 1969-1970 driving a cab part time in New York City.

I paid my way through graduate school by working as a consulting programmer. I needed to prepare for the preliminary oral exams for the Ph.D. degree in May 1970, and was at least smart enough to know that I could not both program and study mathematics so intensely at the same time. Programming was too engrossing.

The most memorable night was the day the Mets won the World Series. The streets instantly filled with happy fans.

Here then the challenge, based on my own experience:

You are driving a cab on a weekday evening in Manhattan. A few minutes past ten you drop off a fare at the southeast corner of Madison and 74th.

Where do you go next?


Reply by comment. I will respond to the first person who posts the correct answer.

Here is a followup question:

If your logic is correct and you get the fare you expect, where do you go after you drop them off?


Hint: The cab you are driving is garaged near 57th and 12th. [1]


1. Redmonk’s Steve O’Grady once lived in this neighborhood.

A few years ago, while driving west on 57th near 11th Avenue, we noticed someone in distress on the sidewalk. We stopped the car, and soon learned that someone had had a heart attack, My daughter Jen adminstered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until an ambulance arrived.

While driving west on 57th I once saw an elderly woman emerge from an apartment building wearing a jogging set. She turned west, and sped off toward the corner. As soon as she crossed the nearest avenue, she turned right and then ran into the nearest bar. This was long before Steve lived in the area, but if the time had been right he might have been in that pub.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 4, 2009 at 14:06 | Permalink | Reply

    Well you Dropped off diagonally from the Whitney, and are heading North on Madison or Heading West on 74th.(being on the South West corner, you are NOT going to make a turn). Looping around and cutting through the park (Central Park) would be very unlikely to bring you a fare, as would much of the east side. That’s about as far as I can take the logic while working at a clients site…

    ps: I am located in Hells Kitchen…..

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Announcing a New LinkedIn Group for New York City Taxicab Drivers I drove a taxicab in NYC part-time in 1969-1970. It was a tough way to make a buck, a great education, and a good source of stories, one of which can be found in my recent post, On Programming: The Dave Shields Hacker’s Challenge. […]

  2. […] Programming: The Answer To The Dave Shields Hacker’s Challenge In a recent post, On Programming: The Dave Shields Hacker’s Challenge, I posed the following […]

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