News about Dyalog

Sep 29, 2016

2016 APL Programming Contest Winners

The 8th annual global programming contest winners were announced on 31 August 2016. Read about their experiences with APL and find out a bit more about them in their own words below.

Phase I of this year's contest had the familiar format of 10 one-line solutions, with 15 participation prizes being awarded to the submissions judged to make the best use of APL. Phase II took a new approach and was split into three categories, with a grand prize winner and runner-up in each category. The questions for each phase can be downloaded.


The Grand Prize Winner (Finance category) is Janos (Zack) Batik of the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He receives a cash prize of $2,000 USD and an invitation to present his winning work at Dyalog '16 in Scotland. Zack won a phase I participation prize in 2015.

"This competition is entwined with how I came to find and appreciate APL. Last year I took break in the middle of undergrad and relocated to Joburg for an internship where I was to be trained in APL. With no prior programming experience I was handed "Mastering Dyalog APL" and started working through it around the same time as the 2015 competition opened. The one liners from phase 1 were the back drop to my progress. As I came to understand new primitives I'd see if the new functionality could help me make any of my solutions smoother. It's a great feeling finding those three or four symbols that take a problem and split, rearrange and seamlessly put back together the pieces into the desired form. By the time I decided to move back to UCT to finish my degree in Maths and Economics I was hooked and was waiting for the competition to start again."


The Grand Prize Winner (General Computing category) is Joshua (Josh) David of the University of Scranton in the U.S.A.. He receives a cash prize of $2,000 USD and an invitation to present his winning work at Dyalog '16 in Scotland.  Josh was runner-up in last year's competition whilst still at high school; he also won a phase I participation prize in 2015 and 2014.

"I'm 19 years old and I'm a second year student at the University of Scranton with a major in Computer Science. This is my third year attempting the APL competition. I was introduced to the language and the competition by Paul Mansour, President of the Carlisle Group here in Scranton, Pennsylvania where I have interned over the past few summers. The first year I tried the APL competition I received a participation award. I really wanted to win first place, so I tried again. The second year I made it in second place, and now I finally won the grand prize! It took three years but as long as you set your eyes on a goal, with perseverance, you can accomplish it. APL is a wonderful language and the more you immerse yourself in the language, the more familiar you become with its wide functionality and you learn how to use the language as a creative palette to code vibrant solutions."


The Grand Prize Winner (Bioinformatics category) is Marinus Oosters of the Universiteit Utrecht in The Netherlands. He receives a cash prize of $2,000 USD and an invitation to present his winning work at Dyalog '16 in Scotland.

"I am 25 years old, and I am studying for a master's degree in Computing Science at Utrecht University. APL seems pretty much unknown here. Instead, I learned of APL through participating in code-golf contests, where the object is to write the smallest program to accomplish a certain task. APL is of obvious use for that, due to its symbolic representation and the fact that it's vector-oriented. I taught myself some APL doing this. Since the free version of Dyalog APL used to pop up a registration window every time, I ended up registering for a student licence of Dyalog APL. So when Dyalog then sent me an invitation for the APL contest, as they do with student licences, I tried my hand at it."




The Winning Professional Entrant is Mike Powell, who receives an invitation to attend Dyalog '16 in Scotland.

"I got my first look at APL sometime in 1973 from John Scholes. He dragged me away from some good old Fortran coding to show me something really cool. Made complete sense immediately. My thinking has been changed ever since. That first introduction was with Xerox APL on a Sigma 7 at WS Atkins in Epsom. Since then I've used most of the APLs around – and J and K. But, I still feel most comfortable with all the funny glyphs. Forget ASCII portability; give me and any day.

"I spent a good number of years making a living from APL, either at IP Sharp or as a consultant. More recently, I've practised as a lawyer but, now at age 66, I'm retired. But still very much the APL enthusiast."



The Runner-up (Finance category) is Rafael Rodrigues of the Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil. He receives a cash prize of $1,000 USD.

"I appreciate the APL language mainly due to its simplicity, effectiveness and because it is an extremely forthright language. Furthermore, the unique experience APL provided to me after I had nailed down part of its secrets was also very useful to improve my reasoning in other programming languages. I started to do better codes in Common Lisp and even in C++ after learning APL. The International Problem Solving Competition, with all its challenges, was a great motivation for me to continue digging out the details about APL. After I got involved with it I started to spend more time programming and doing pieces of research about APL content. Thus, it really boosted my interests and my commitment to this programming language."




The Runner-up (General Computing category) is Imaculate Mosha of the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She receives a cash prize of $1,000 USD. Imaculate won a phase I participation prize in 2015.

"Coding in Greek symbols is so cool! It helps think in a new paradigm. It's easier to write one liners in APL, it thus forces me to redesign algorithms to shorten my code as much as possible. I discovered lots of new APL concepts especially on operators as I solved the problems."


The Runner-up (Bioinformatics category) is Louis de Forcrand of the Ecole Moser in Switzerland. He receives a cash prize of $1,000 USD.

"About a year ago I was reading through the Wikipedia page for Fortran (which my dad still uses), and I accidentally clicked the link to the APL page. I was captured by the examples, especially the one-liner for Conway's Game of Life. I especially like its similarity in style to mathematical notation. I find it encourages "literate" programming: a thorough description of the solution, followed by a succinct implementation in a rigorous, executable notation. To some, certain mathematical formulas may appear beautiful. This, I find, is possible in APL more than in any other programming language."

Louis' advice to next year's participants is "Never underestimate breadth-first searches". He also says "The experience I gained while participating will be a huge help for me while writing my thesis. I had read about depth- and breadth-first searching, but nothing I could have read would have given me the first-hand experience that this competition did."

Thank You and Congratulations

This is the 8th consecutive year that Dyalog Ltd – together with sponsors APL Italiana, Fiserv and SimCorp – has run the International APL Problem Solving Competition. We would like to thank the sponsors for making it possible to continue to run this annual programming challenge and for hosting the 2016 contest.

Congratulations to all the winners.