Column 12: A Sample Problem
Small computer programs are often educational and entertaining. This column tells the story of a tiny program that, in addition to those qualities, proved useful to a company.
12.1 The Problem
It was the early 1980’s, and the company had just purchased their first personal computers. After I got their primary system up and running, I encouraged people to keep an eye open for tasks around the office that could be done by a program. The firm’s business was public opinion polling, and an alert employee suggested automating the task of drawing a random sample from a printed list of precincts. Because doing the job by hand required a boring hour with a table of random numbers, she proposed the following program.
The input ...