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Rise of the Machines

Chess computers are beating grand masters with ever-greater ease, and even more demoralizing, they're beginning to do it with style

3 min read

8 August 2005--It seems the scales are finally tipping in the decades-long struggle of human grand masters and chess machines. The humans are looking increasingly like the palookas that impresarios used to pit against champion boxers, just to attract spectators. And in the one sphere where grand masters always claimed an advantage--playing interesting and fun-to-watch games--the gap also seems to be closing. The machines' play, once marked by bizarre, inscrutable moves, increasingly resembles the play of humans--very smart humans.

The turning of the tide began last October, in Bilbao, Spain, when a special-purpose machine called Hydra and a commercially available program called Fritz, running on a laptop, creamed a bevy of top-ranked grand masters. Hydra and Fritz each scored 3.5 points out of a possible 4. Then, in June, in a match webcast from London, Hydra humiliated Britain's Mickey Adams, the seventh-ranked grand master in the world, with a score of 5.5 out of 6. The same week, a version of Fritz, downloadable for free as part of the Accoona Toolbar (a device that searches a PC's hard drive) drew a one-game exhibition match against Uzbekistan's champion, Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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