# Posts

16 June 2019 / /

## A suspiciously fast program

Computing large integer powers modulo some number is a somewhat common operation. For example, it's used in RSA encryption. Usually, this is done using exponentiation by squaring, but this go program correctly prints the results of $$n^{2^{64}}\ (\mathrm{mod}\ 115763)$$ for $$n$$ from 1 to 20, seemingly naively:

package main

import "fmt"

func main() {
for n := 1; n <= 20; n++ {
result := 1
for i := 0; i < 2^64; i++ {
result = (result * n) % 115763
}
fmt.Printf("pow(%d, pow(2, 64)) mod 115763 = %d\n", n, result)
}
}


It runs, unoptimized, in a few milliseconds on my desktop. You can run it yourself online using the go playground. Feel free to edit the code a little before running it to convince yourself it's not just fast because the playground is caching the results or something.

How can it be that fast? Is go's optimizing compiler that clever? It's not, and there's a trick in the code. Can you see it?

14 June 2019 / /

17 June 2018 / /

## A gentle introduction to hard programming

As I was growing up in England in the 80s, there was a boom in home microcomputers, with the Commodore 64, the ZX Spectrum, and the BBC Micro being three popular choices. These provided an excellent and approachable introduction to programming, with many of my friends learning programming in BASIC and assembler. We taught ourselves the fundamentals of computing while we were playing, and at a relatively early age.

These days the computing environment is complex, and it's much harder for a beginner to get started, or even know how to get started. Mostly programming is learnt at university or in other formal education. While there is definitely more to learn now than before, it seems like the fundamentals of coding should still be easier to pick up than it currently is.

This post takes a look at what made home micros effective learning environments, and considers what a modern equivalent might look like.