ICFP Programming Contest

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The ICFP Programming Contest is an international programming competition held annually around June or July since 1998, with results announced at the International Conference on Functional Programming.

Teams may be of any size and any programming language(s) may be used. There is also no entry fee. Participants have 72 hours to complete and submit their entry over the Internet. There is often also a 24-hour lightning division.

The winners reserve "bragging rights" to claim that their language is "the programming tool of choice for discriminating hackers". As such, one of the competition's goals is to showcase the capabilities of the contestants' favourite programming languages and tools. Previous first prize winners have used Haskell, OCaml, C++, Cilk, Java and F#.

The contests usually have around 300 submitted entries.[1][2]

Past tasks[edit]

Year Organiser Description
1998 Université de Montréal and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Write a program that plays pousse, an odd variant of tic-tac-toe. Contestant programs were entered into a tournament to determine the first- and second-place program.
1999 Harvard University Size-optimize case statements (the contest task spoke about text-based adventure games, but in fact the task was to size-optimize the description of such a game).
2000 Cornell University Implement a ray tracer using a Postscript-like syntax.
2001 INRIA Rocquencourt Size-optimize an HTML-like markup language by removing unnecessary whitespace and tags, and so on.
2002 OGI School of Science and Engineering Implement robots playing a Sokoban-like game one against each other.
2003 Chalmers University Implement robots driving a car as fast as possible through different racing tracks.
2004 University of Pennsylvania Design an ant colony that will bring the most food particles back to its anthill, while fending off ants of another species. The contest entry would output a state-machine description of the ant: in principle, entries could have been written by hand. Later the task was adapted into Ant Wars, a strategy and programming game where each participant is a species of ant. The participant then, in a language called Antomata,[3] program a finite state machine to function as the brain of each ant. The ant brain then control the ant to find and collect food to bring to the home ant hill, to fend off attackers or making trails of pheromones.
2005 PLT group Implement "bots" for a "Cops & Robbers" game: contestants have to write the control program that guides a Robber-Bot through a quiet urban neighborhood on a mission to rob every bank without getting caught, and the control program for a Cop-Bot dedicated to stopping it.
2006 Carnegie Mellon University Implement a virtual machine that runs an operating system (called UMIX) provided by the judges, and crack it using new programming languages with unconventional syntax and semantics, such as 2D and a version of BASIC using Roman numerals. Many puzzles were tiny versions or parodies of previous contests.
2007 Utrecht University Implement a 2-stage virtual machine that executes a DNA-like string to produce an image. Then, given an input string for this machine, find a prefix that when added to this string yields an image as close as possible to the given target image.
2008 Portland State University and the University of Chicago Provide a Mars rover control system that will guide it to a home base while avoiding obstacles and enemies.
2009 University of Kansas Control a satellite to move between specified orbits and rendezvous with other satellites.
2010 Leipzig University of Applied Science, Germany International Car and Fuel Production.
2011 Tohoku University, Japan Program a computer with 256 "slots" to outlast its opponent in terms of slots remaining at the end of the match. Submissions include executables that are entered into a two-phase tournament.
2012 University of St Andrews, Scotland Program an AI for a Boulder Dash-like game.
2013 Microsoft Research Guess the implementation of a blackbox function implemented in a simple functional language through querying a web service.
2014 University of Oxford and Well-Typed LLP Write AI programs for a pacman like game, in SECD machine instruction for pacman and 8-bit machine assembly instructions for four ghosts.
2015 Galois Write an AI for Tetris-like game on a hexagon grid field that embeds secret phrases in the move sequence.
2016 University of Electro-Communications Write an AI to solve abstract origami.
2017 University of Edinburgh Write an AI for a game where players in turn claim route parts on the map and the one with the best coverage wins. There are also three extensions to the main game mode, any number of which can be enabled on a map.


Prizes have a modest cash value, primarily aimed at helping the winners to attend the conference, where the prizes are awarded and the judges make the following declarations:

First prize
[Language 1] is the programming tool of choice for discriminating hackers.
Second prize
[Language 2] is a fine programming tool for many applications.
Third prize
[Language 3] is also not too shabby.
Winner of the lightning division
[Language L] is very suitable for rapid prototyping.
Judges' prize
[Team X] are an extremely cool bunch of hackers.

Where a winning entry involves several languages, the winners are asked to nominate one or two. The languages named in the judges' declarations have been:

Year First Prize Second Prize Third Prize Lightning
1998 Cilk OCaml
1999[4] OCaml Haskell [5]
2000[6] OCaml OCaml
2001[7] Haskell Dylan
2002 OCaml C [5]
2003 C++ C++ OCaml
2004[8] Haskell Haskell and C++ Java and C++
2005[9] Haskell Dylan Haskell
2006 2D[10] D Assembly
2007 C++ Perl [11]
2008[12] Java ML
2009[13] C++ Java ML
2010[14] C++, Haskell, Python SageMath
2011[15] F# Shell and C++
2012[16] C++ OCaml Java
2013[17] Java, C#, C++, PHP, Ruby and Haskell C++ and Python C#, C++, bash, awk, sed and Excel C++
2014[18] Haskell C++ Perl OCaml
2015[19] C++, Java, C#, PHP, Ruby and Haskell C++, Python, JavaScript C++ C++
2016[20] C++, Java, C#, PHP, Ruby and Haskell C++, Python, JavaScript C++, ML, Python

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "ICFP Programming Contest Scoreboard". Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  2. ^ https://alliance.seas.upenn.edu/~plclub/cgi-bin/contest/results.php
  3. ^ Antomata - The Language of Ant Wars
  4. ^ Final results of the ICFP'99 Programming Contest
  5. ^ a b The contests in 1999 and 2002 had a lightning division, but without a separate prize. The winners of that division were awarded Judges' prizes.
  6. ^ The Third Annual ICFP Programming Contest
  7. ^ The Fourth ICFP Programming Contest
  8. ^ The Seventh Antual ICFP Programming Contest
  9. ^ The Eighth Annual ICFP Programming Contest
  10. ^ 2D was a toy language invented for the 2006 contest. The winning team used C++, Haskell, Python, Bash, and 2D.
  11. ^ The 2007 contest had a lightning division, but since there was no clear leader after 24 hours the judges decided not to choose a winner.
  12. ^ ICFP 2008 Programming Contest Results
  13. ^ http://www.vimeo.com/6613815 - accessed September 23, 2009
  14. ^ ICFP 2010 Programming Contest (video)
  15. ^ ICFP Programming Contest 2011
  16. ^ ICFP Programming Contest 2012
  17. ^ ICFP Programming Contest 2013
  18. ^ ICFP Programming Contest 2014
  19. ^ ICFP Programming Contest 2015
  20. ^ [1]

Perennial Teams[edit]

External links[edit]

Ant War game