A Typical Golfing Session

My last post was about why I golf. Now, I will explain the how and my personal thought process. As a side note, golfing isn’t for the impatient there are many times I will fruitlessly stare at 40 characters for an hour only to concede that there is not shorter representation. But now for some code, the program I will be golfing the Sieve of Eratosthenes up to 100,000 in javascript.

First of all, we need to actually write a working version of the program (244 chars):

var max = 100000;
var sieve = [];
for(var pos = 2; pos < max; pos++) {
var is_prime = ! sieve[pos];
if(is_prime) {
console.log(pos);
for(var i = pos + pos; i < max; i+= pos) {
sieve[i] = 1;
}
}
}

That is clean code. Now let’s start butchering. First let’s remove everything unecessary like vars, parentheses, and spacing; and make variables one character (138 chars) .

x=100000;
s=[];
for(p=2;p<x;p++){
v=!s[p];
if(v){
console.log(p);
for(i=p+p;i<x;i+=p)
s[i]=1;
}
}

Next, we notice that there’s a shorter way to write 100000; stuff console.log(p) into the next for loop, and i=!s[p] into the if clause (107 chars).

x=1e5;
s=[];
for(p=2;p<x;p++)
if(!s[p])
for(console.log(p),i=p+p;i<x;i+=p)
s[i]=1;

Now we can flat out remove all the whitespace (76 chars).

x=1e5;s=[];for(p=2;p<x;p++)if(!s[p])for(console.log(p),i=p+p;i<x;i+=p)s[i]=1

Things will then get complicated fast! Next, we don’t care about the first value of the sieve, and lets re-jigger the inner for loop (72 chars).

x=1e5;for(s=[p=2];p<x;p++)if(!s[p])for(console.log(p),i=p;i<x;)s[i+=p]=1

At this point, I will spend 2-3 minutes per character removed. I then notice that defining x is longer than using the max explcitly, and i can be initialized earlier (68 chars).

for(s=[p=2];p<1e5;p++)if(!s[i=p])for(console.log(p);i<1e5;)s[i+=p]=1

Re-jigger the outer for loop, another 5 minutes here (67 chars).

for(s=[p=1];++p<1e5;)if(!s[i=p])for(console.log(p);i<1e5;)s[i+=p]=1

After a while, like a scupltor stepping back to look at his work, you conclude that to the best of your ability, nothing else can be removed, and so we finish. This was a fairly short example, but I hope I conveyed the process and reasoning behind how I golf.

As I’m writing this post, I realize that it can be shortened still. Exercise for the reader.

Written on Feb 14, 2014 about Code, Golf and JavaScript.