Elephant in Cairo
An elephant in Cairo is a term used in
computer programmingto describe a piece of test data that is designed to ensure that an algorithm is working. The term derives from a humorous essay circulated on the Internet and published in "Byte" magazine in September 1989 that described how various professions would go about hunting elephants, with programmers following the algorithm:
:# Go to
Africa.:# Start at the Cape of Good Hope.:# Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west until you get to Cairo,:# During each traverse pass,:#:* Catch each animal seen.:#:* Compare each animal caught to a known elephant.:#:* Stop when a match is detected.
:Experienced programmers modify Algorithm A by placing a known elephant in
Cairoto ensure that the algorithm will terminate.:# Go to Africa.:# Put an elephant in Cairo.:# Start at the Cape of Good Hope.:# Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west until an elephant is found,:# During each traverse pass,:#:* Catch each animal seen.:#:* Compare each animal caught to the elephant in Cairo.:# If the elephant is in Cairo, you put it there.
This simplifies the algorithm a little. It dates back to the 1970s.
Olsen, Peter C. (1989) "Pachydermic Personnel Prediction", Byte Magazine, "Stop Bit" column, September 1989.
* [http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/joke/elephant.htm Transcript] of Stop Bit,
Byte magazine, September 1989, p.404
* [http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~fms27/door/elephant.pdf List of the other elephant hunting techniques] (PDF)
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