How I Got Interested

     Back in ancient times when I was in college, I was taking a couple of very different courses.  One course was Computer Science, where I learned a computer language called Fortran II-D.  Yes, that’s II meaning two in Roman Numerals, it was that long ago.  The other course was Political Science, where I learned about ReDistricting.  It occurred to me that someday computers could do ReDistricting.  My PolySci Professor pointed out to me where in the textbook it said that because there were so many possible combinations, it would be impossible for a computer to do ReDistricting.  That same sort of argument also explained why a computer could never hope to play a winning game of chess.  True enough in those ancient times.
    Back then, my thought was having the computer start each district growing from a spot.  The district would expand by acquiring the nearest blocks.  By keeping a tally of the population of each district, the district with the lowest population would grow next.  That way, the population of all the districts would stay roughly equal as they grew.
    The districts would eventually grow into each other.  Some sort of apportioning process was needed.  The vision I had was of soap bubbles.  You have to try playing with bubbles  to really see their beauty.  Bubbles of different sizes form a membrane between themselves in an almost magical manner.  By carefully inserting a small straw into a bubble, you can blow into the bubble to enlarge it, or suck out some of the air to make it smaller.  Imagine instead of 3 dimensional bubbles, you could make 2 dimensional bubbles.  Place those bubbles on top of a map of the State, with each bubble being a district.  The membranes between the bubbles would form the ReDistricting boundaries.  Magical indeed!
    I was surprised that I could find no one that had any interest at all in trying to ReDistrict by computer.  I could understand why politicians would have no interest, but academics and software writers also had no interest.  This was a puzzle that I didn’t have the pieces to solve, much less a mainframe, so I quit thinking about it.
    Then a new revolution happened.  The Personal Computer, or PC was born.  I taught myself a new computer language called BASIC, which was serving me well with other puzzles.  It was a long time before I reconsidered the ReDistricting puzzle.  But, yes, I finally did. 


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