The Making of Solve101

Solve101 is a QBASIC program that was the result of merging two programs together; SOMADRAW, which was written by Thorlief Bundgaard, and ANSWER which was written by myself. Both programs were rather crude back then. SOMADRAW was a graphics program that would display Soma figures, but was void of any features. ANSWER was a program that could solve Soma figures (in a very cryptic way), but ran way too slow, could only solve one figure at a time, and had to be modified every time you wanted to solve a new figure.

Thorleif initially combined the programs together, and from what I understand, the programs meshed together very well with minor conflicts... or at least I don't recall Thorleif throwing his keyboard at the monitor. By the way, Thorleif's half of the program was in structured BASIC format, while my half was still used the old line-numbering system.

So now we had a program that could solve Soma structures AND graphically show the figure. But it was still primitive and needed a lot of work. I was in charge of the solving portion, while Thorleif was in charge of the graphics , user-interface, inputs and outputs. He was also responsible for the notation that is used to define a Soma structure.

So off we went on our separate ways to work on this thing, furiously typing away at our keyboards. This wasn't too convenient for either of us; both of us have families and jobs and only about an hour (or less) to spare each day. We would often throw ideas back and forth, mainly suggestions like: "You know, your half of the program would work better if..."

After four months, the program was finished and posted on both our web-sites with many improvements. Thorleif loaded his half of the program with graphical and user-interface features, all which can be seen as the function keys when running the program; including rotating and viewing a solved figure in color or text and all sorts of other goodies. For my half, I threw in a few algorithms and did some spring-cleaning. The result? The time it takes to solve a figure has sped up by a factor of 3600! What use to take hours now only takes seconds.

The most amazing thing is how smoothly the project ran, even though Thorleif and I have never met personally and live FIVE TIME ZONES APART. He lives in Denmark while I live in Ohio. This entire project was done through e-mail and finished in a relatively short time period. What? You don't think that four months was all that quick? Think about this, then: At the work place, how long does it take you to finish ANY of your projects, after your boss interferes and keeps setting it back to square-one every week?

It was actually a sad day when the program was finally finished. Instead of breaking out the champagne, we just sat back and thought, "Wow... it's over!" After 4 months of ideas either coming to life or blowing up in our faces, the rolly coaster ride was over. Once in a while, I'll sift through some old e-mail and get a kick about the letters involving Solve101; the victories, the frustrations, and how the Hell we were ever going to pull this one off. Thorleif and I still remain on a pen-pal basis.

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