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The Quiz

The Mystery of the Five Programmers

by Michael Swaine

Generic image illustrating the article

You probably didn’t know that a certain famous programmer had a metal plate in his head of his own design.

There is some such odd factoid about every person just waiting to be discovered if you dig deep enough. Or sometimes if you just look them up on Wikipedia. This logic puzzle involves five famous programmers, identified here just by their first names, plus the college each graduated from, his year of graduation, and an odd factoid about each programmer. Your task is to associate each programmer with the correct college, graduation year, and factoid, based on the sketchy data provided.

A hint: expert solvers of logic puzzles find that it’s helpful to create a grid to record the connections as you make or eliminate them. But with this puzzle you have an additional way of making headway. The five individuals are real programmers and the information about them is all true. So if, for example, one of the programmers here was named Linus, you might guess that he’s the one who graduated from a university in Finland. So naturally none of them is named Linus, because that would be too easy. They all have fairly common names. But you get the idea.

Oh, and since the programmers are all real people, there’s one extra challenge. Once you’ve connected each programmer with his school, graduation date, and factoid, you should also figure out his last name. By that point, that should be easy.

So here’s all you need to know about the five programmers:

The five people are the Yale graduate, the UC Berkeley grad, the 1978 grad, the one who has no email address, and John. Now, John graduated before the person with no email address, and the UC Berkeley grad was never a radio disk jockey, although one of the five was. So that ought to be a big help. Also, the Porsche driver graduated after Mitch, who graduated after the person with a metal plate in his head, and Charles, who didn’t graduate in 1971, either has no email address or was a space tourist. Got that? And of the one with no email address and Tim, one graduated in 1960 and the other graduated from the University of Washington. Somebody, I forget who, graduated in 1972, and somebody, possibly a different person but not necessarily, went to Case Institute of Technology. Let’s see, what else can I tell you? Don graduated in 1960, and the group includes a 1949 Columbia graduate.

There, that should be enough information for you to match each programmer with his alma mater, year of graduation, and little-known factoid. Good luck!

OK, one more little puzzle: the title of this month’s quiz is stolen from a different puzzle published in a computer magazine some years ago. What was the magazine and who was the author?

Solutions to Last Month’s Quiz

How many times per day will a digital clock in 12-hour mode display three identical consecutive digits?


How many times per day do all three hands of an analog clock coincide?


You wake up. The first light of dawn is coming in the window. You glance at the clock. 5:45. You close your eyes and count off what you think is 15 seconds. You’re pretty good at this; in 15 seconds you’re not going to be off by an appreciable amount. You open your eyes and glance at the clock again. Still 5:45.

What is your best guess for the current time, to a tenth of a second?