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Subject: On naming one's chess program

Author: Steven Edwards

Date: 21:17:56 03/26/04


On naming one's chess program:

I've written several chess programs over the past twenty-five years, but have
only given names to those that have played in human competition, or in the case
of Symbolic, an intent to compete against humans.  My first named program was
called Vorpal after the nasty sword in _Jabberwocky_.  A close derivative of
that z80 assembly language program got the name Oracle when I registered it with
the USCF some twenty years ago.  Back in those days, an oracle in AI is what is
now more commonly called a KS (an encapsulated knowledge source).

My mostly C language program Spector got its name because one of my goals was to
develop a chess player with a sense of introspection.  The idea, not really
successful, was to enable a monitoring facility of some sort that would observe
the progress of the traditional A/B search and re-direct it when the search was
being unproductive.  I punted on this attempt (for Spector, not for Symbolic)
because of the then difficult work required to get multithreading working in a
portable fashion on the old, pre-BSD Macintosh operating system.

Symbolic is named as such in part because all of its high level processing is
done symbolically instead of numerically.  (Perhaps I should rename the
underlying toolkit "Numeric".)  Also, I couldn't think of a better name; some
decent alternatives have already been taken by various well known programming
efforts in non-chess AI fields.

I note that many chess programs have customized identifying logo artwork.
Unlike many Macintosh enthusiasts, I have absolutely no talent in the graphic
arts.  So my logo for Symbolic is very simple: a couple of Lisp cons cells drawn
in box and arrow notation.  The first cons has its cdr pointing to the second
cons which has a nil cdr pointer.  The car pointer of the first cons connects to
a Lisp atom with a black knight, and the car of the second cons points to a
white king atom.  These were chosen as my first non-paper chess programming
attempt was a "knight chases king" routine on my 1976 HP-25 calculator with its
49 step program memory.

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Interestingly, in the Early Days chess programs were rare beasts and so were
known by the names of their author(s) instead of having an identification of
their own.  I believe that Richard Greenblatt's famous program was the first to
get its own moniker: MacHack Six.  For the youngsters here, its "Mac" part
pre-dates Macintosh computers by almost twenty years; it refers to the MAC (Man
And Computer) Program then active at MIT.

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Cool/amusing program names over the years:

"Treefrog" ([my favorite] mid 1970s, by Hunsen, Calnek, and Crook)

"Patsoc" ("Plays a terrible sort of chess" by Berliner)

"TinkerBelle" (Thompson's experimental version of Belle; unusable today because
of probable Disney lawsuit)

"Kaissa" (from Russia, a good pick for an internationally known program)

"Iron Fish" ([another favorite] mid 1970s)

"Chaos" (also from the 1970s)

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Dumb (IMHO) naming ideas:

1. Naming a program after a famous dead GM.

2. Naming a program after a famous live GM.

3. Naming any program from before the mid 1980s with any of "expert", "master",
or "grandmaster" but with absolutely no chance of playing at such a level.

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Finally, the Best Chess Program Source Module Name That Can Appear In A Family
Website:

"SuperBananaBeyond" from Chess 4.x



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