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Saturday, October 13, 2012

FizzBuzz handled 8-bit style

Much has been said about using FizzBuzz as a screening tool for programming interviews. The theory is basically that you can hand someone a completely useless and stupidly simple request and use it to sort out the fakers from the people who can deliver something which works. I'm actually willing to believe this is true since I have presented it to people who claim to know what they are doing, and they just hem and haw and never get around to writing any code.

Realize this is something which could be reduced to a hard-coded list. You could pre-compute the whole thing and have it spit out little more than a bunch of print statements and it would be better than nothing. You could even just type it up in a text file and have your "program" effectively be "cat fizzbuzz.txt" and that would still be something.

Instead, it tends to bring out the worst in some people. They just sit there and futz around, twisting in the wind, and never produce anything. It may be that this is actually selecting for the ability to deliver and not necessarily coding ability. It's just that one masks the other, so you can't really be sure.

I also worry that this problem, like so many others, will eventually enter the list of tricks you should "cram" into your head before an interview, like the whole "why are manhole covers round" thing. To that end, I want to think of some ways to present this problem in a new way.

For example, some day, I hope to interview someone who claims to have grown up with the various 8-bit machines of the past: VIC-20s, C-64s, Apple IIs, and the like. Then I want to point them to an emulator of their favorite machine and have them do FizzBuzz on that. I'm guessing few people would have studied for such a ridiculous request.

FizzBuzz on a C-64

Just think of the 8-bit diversion as a "cachebuster" for programmers.