LearnedLeague Computing

I just finished creating and presenting a Computing trivia MiniLeague for LearnedLeague. It went really really well, and I wanted to share the questions to a wider audience. Beware: it’s HARD.

  1. During World War II, British cryptographers at Bletchley Park created electromechanical proto-computers to help crack Germany’s Enigma code. What were these machines called, a reference to the ticking sound they made when they were in operation?
    Answer: BOMBES
  2. In 1996, Intel introduced a technology allowing its processors to do math on large sets of numbers extremely quickly. This technology was widely marketed, and had a well known three letter acronym, but it didn't actually stand for anything. What was that acronym?
    Answer: MMX
  3. The original Unix timestamp is stored as a number of seconds since January 1, 1970. This timestamp will exceed 231 in what year, breaking any computer systems that have not been updated to store the timestamp in more than 31 bits?
    Answer: 2038
  4. Modem is a portmanteau of what two words that describe the way it functions?
  5. The programs ed, vi, pico, and nano are most commonly used to do what?
  6. How many rules are there in Codd's Twelve Rules, the early-1980s standard against which all relational database systems are judged?
    Answer: 13
  7. The original HTTP standard misspelled the name of the header field that identifies the address of the webpage that linked to the one being requested. The current HTTP standard still misspells it, and it will probably never be corrected. What is the name of that header field (spelled as the standard spells it -- SPELLING COUNTS)?
    Answer: REFERER
  8. By tradition, in Unix systems, many long-lived background processes have a name that ends with a "d" (for example: httpd, syslogd, telnetd, and many others). What word does this D stand for?
    Answer: DAEMON, DEMON
  9. Name the septuagenarian programmer who said: "At the time of my death, it is my intention that the then-current versions of [my two most prominent creations] be forever left unchanged, except that the final version numbers ... of the programs should become pi and e, respectively. From that moment on, all 'bugs' will be permanent 'features.'"
    Answer: DONALD KNUTH
  10. What US university does the B in the BSD family of Unix-like operating systems refer to?
  11. The PowerPC chip family was designed by a three-company group called the AIM Alliance. Name any two of the member companies.
  12. What do IP addresses that start with "10." and "192.168." have in common?
  13. The plugs designated D-terminal, 13W3, and DE-15 were each once used to connect what kind of peripheral to a computer?
    Answer: MONITOR
  14. What was the nickname that pioneering hacker John Draper adopted? He took it from the cereal box whose prize was a whistle that could be used to make free long-distance phone calls (among other things).
  15. This man developed one of the most popular programming languages in the world while at Bell Labs. Who is he?
  16. What is the long-time motto of IBM, coined by former company President Thomas J. Watson, and the source of the name of one of their most popular lines of computers?
    Answer: THINK
  17. Name the multi-platinum musician who reportedly (perhaps apocryphally?) was involved in writing the music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. He was never officially credited.
  18. In 1976, Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken published the first ever computer-assisted mathematical proof. What did they prove?
  19. Long before the rise of pastafarianism, James Parry was the central figure/deity of a popular online parody religion. What was it called?
    Answer: KIBOLOGY
  20. The acronym WIMP refers to what four main concepts used in almost all graphical user interfaces?
  21. In January 1999, Apple made the iMac available in five different colors, all named after fruit. Name any three.
  22. The now-defunct LucasArts published more than a dozen graphical adventure games using the SCUMM language originally created during the development of -- and partly named after -- what seminal late-80s game?
  23. What is the last name of the famous Linus being asked about the pronunciation of his name in this clip?
    Answer: TORVALDS
  24. A human interrogator has a written conversation with each of two players -- one of which is a computer program. If the interrogator is unable to determine which is human and which is artificial, the program is said to have passed what test, named after the computer scientist who proposed it in 1950?
    Answer: TURING TEST
  25. The keyboard pictured was designed to be used to write in what IBM-created programming language whose specialty is concise array manipulation?
    Answer: APL
  26. Although virtually all modern computers store data in binary, ENIAC famously did not. In what base did its ring counters store numbers?
    Answer: DECIMAL (10)
  27. This is a screenshot from what classic educational computer game?
    Answer: OREGON TRAIL
  28. Fill in the blank in this 1997 quote from famed developer Jamie Zawinski: "Some people, when confronted with a problem, think 'I know, I'll use ___________.' Now they have two problems."
  29. Dirichlet's box principle, roughly stated as: "If you try to put n+1 items in n buckets, at least one bucket must have more than one item" is more commonly named after the roosting places of what bird?
    Answer: PIGEON
  30. What was the first .com domain ever registered?
  31. What were the following programs used for: Wildcat!, Renegade, WWIV, Maximus.
  32. The computer Deep Blue became, in 1997, the first computer to ever defeat the reigning chess world champion by beating whom?
  33. Name the commercial hardware manufacturer that was founded by Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner in 1984. Its name derives from the city in which it was founded, and its logo represents the most recognizeable structure in that city.
    Answer: CISCO
  34. According to popular legend, in 1983, Atari buried millions of copies of what flopped game in Alamagordo, New Mexico, and covered them with concrete?
    Answer: E.T.
  35. What early 1990s handheld device is satirized in this image from the TV show The Simpsons?
    Answer: APPLE NEWTON
  36. In January 2013, what image format became the 2nd most popular on the Internet, when it overtook GIF?
    Answer: PNG
  37. It's a UNIX system! I know this! Lex Murphy saves the day in Jurassic Park with a silly looking (but real!) experimental file manager that shipped with a major flavor of Unix. Name the file manager OR the operating system it shipped with.
    Answer: FSN, IRIX
  38. Despite the brand name, the laser used to read Blu-Ray discs, with a wavelength of 405 nanometers, is technically what color?
    Answer: VIOLET
  39. The latest major version of HTML (which, despite being in wide use has still not been officially finalized) adds integrated video, sound, vector graphics, and improves the semantic meaning of websites. What is its version number?
    Answer: 5
  40. Fill in the blank in the title of the famed 1968 journal article by Edsger Dijkstra: "______ Statement Considered Harmful".
    Answer: GO TO
  41. On July 1, Google will be shutting down its Reader service, which was a news aggregation tool that was able to read either of two similar news feed technologies. Name either one.
    Answer: RSS, ATOM
  42. What word is used to describe a function which calls itself? The same word is used to describe acronyms that refer to themselves (e.g.: PHP, GNU, or WINE).
    Answer: RECURSIVE
  43. Identify the sort algorithm represented by this pseudocode.
  44. The QWERTY keyboard layout is essentially ubiquitous in English-speaking countries. The mostly similar AZERTY layout is used by most speakers of what language?
  45. Micro-Soft was founded by Paul Allen and Bill Gates to create BASIC interpreters for this microcomputer. Name it.
    Answer: ALTAIR 8800
  46. In the 1980s, the Internet had seven generic top-level domains: .com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, and .org. Since then, 14 more have been added. Name any three.
  47. The B and A in BASIC stand for “Beginners All-Purpose”. What does the rest (“SIC”) stand for?
  48. As of June 1, 2013, what was the largest technology company in the world, by market capitalization?
    Answer: APPLE
  49. Server racks have been standardized in 1.75-inch horizontal slices called rack units (or U); a server that takes up four of these slices is called '4U'. How many U are in a typical full-height rack?
    Answer: 42
  50. The most repeated interpretation of Moore's Law is that microchip performance will double every 18 months, but that isn't what Gordon Moore observed in 1965. His original observation was that every two years, what other measurement of microchip progress would double?
  51. In the movie Office Space, Michael Bolton becomes enraged at a printer for giving him what opaque error message?
    Answer: PC LOAD LETTER
  52. In 2003, the web browser then known as "Phoenix" started a controversy when it changed its name to that of another open source project. To end the conflict, less than a year later, it was renamed Firefox. What was the short-lived and controversial name?
    Answer: FIREBIRD
  53. Name the now-famous video game character who debuted in 1981 as a carpenter named Jumpman.
    Answer: MARIO
  54. The word "pixel" is a shortening of what two-word phrase?
  55. CmdrTaco and Hemos are the founders of what pioneering technology news website?
    Answer: SLASHDOT
  56. What 1982 Science Fiction movie was not nominated for an Academy Award for Special Effects (despite their extensive use) because, in the words of the film's director, "The Academy thought we cheated by using computers"?
    Answer: TRON
  57. The OSI model of networking describes a standardized way of separating the functions of a communication system into a set of abstract layers, from "physical" at the bottom to "application" at the top. How many layers does the OSI model have?
    Answer: 7
  58. What color does the hex triplet #FF0000 correspond to?
    Answer: RED
  59. 16-pin DIPs, 72-pin SIMMs, and 168-pin DIMMs are all form factors of what vital computer component?
    Answer: RAM
  60. A CPU has a very small amount of storage available (typically a couple of dozen locations of a few bytes each). Almost all processing consists of copying values from memory into this storage, performing a mathematical operation, and then copying it back to memory. What are these storage locations called?
    Answer: REGISTERS
  61. Pictured are the three different sizes of floppy disks manufactured, named after their respective sizes. Name the sizes.
    Answer: 8, 5 ¼, 3 ½
  62. The multimedia container format MKV can hold an unlimited number of video, audio, and subtitle tracks in a single file. Its name, fittingly, comes from what traditional Russian toy?
  63. A CIDR netmask of /16 is equivalent to what network address class?
    Answer: B
  64. What fictional unit of data did the writers of Star Trek invent in response to worries that any real terms (like bit or byte) they used would eventually become obsolete?
    Answer: QUAD
  65. How many rows of punches were on the most widely used IBM 80-column punch cards (including the zone punches)?
    Answer: 12
  66. No matter how good you are at Pac-Man, it's impossible to beat the 256th screen. Dig Dug and Donkey Kong also famously contain similar bugs that prevent a game from extending indefinitely. What are these kinds of bugs called?
    Answer: KILL SCREEN
  67. Some modern programming languages (including Perl, Ruby, PHP, shell scripting, XSLT, and Transact-SQL) have a symbol preceding or following variable names, often different symbols for different variable types. What are these symbols called?
    Answer: SIGILS
  68. The terms "big-endian" and "little-endian" in the context of computing indicate the direction that binary numbers are stored in. The terms were coined as a deliberate reference to what 18th century novel?
  69. In the movie War Games, the computer at NORAD is called Joshua by its creator. What was the computer's proper name (as written on its chassis)?
    Answer: WOPR
  70. The IEEE 1394 interface, developed primarily by Apple but widely available on PCs and used largely for digital audio and video equipment, is more commonly known as what?
    Answer: FIREWIRE
  71. What operations can users who are not the file's owner perform on a file on a Unix-like operating system with permissions set to 700?
    Answer: NONE
  72. Name the popular PC first-person shooter released in 1999 that contained this notoriously super-optimized inverse-square-root function in its source code.
    Answer: QUAKE III
  73. On October 29, 1969, the first message was sent on ARPANET (the network which eventually became the Internet). What was that message?
    Answer: LO
  74. Douglas Englebart invented the first mouse in 1963 at Stanford. It had only one button, and was made out of what material?
    Answer: WOOD
  75. Fill in the missing two-word descriptor: IEEE Standard for _________ Arithmetic defines a format for storing certain values in memory. The format includes three parts: a sign, a significand (or mantissa), and an exponent.
  76. What was the name of the modification released for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas revealing sex scenes previously hidden in the game, leading to a minor uproar and the recall of the game?
    Answer: HOT COFFEE
  77. There are four common ways to traverse a tree data structure. One is breadth-first. The others are all variations on a depth-first search. Name all three.
  78. Identify the specific pictured implementation of loop unrolling, named after the man who first posted it to Usenet in 1983.
    Answer: DUFF'S DEVICE
  79. On April Fools Day in 2001, the heads of the Perl and Python projects released a prank announcement that the two languages would be merged. The proposed name has been since adopted by a Free Software tool that allows languages (not just those two) to inter-operate smoothly and efficiently. What is it called?
    Answer: PARROT
  80. What was the first commercially-sold video game, which pre-dated Pong by a full year?

1234567890 seconds after the epoch

On Friday, February 13, at 23:31:30 UTC (6:31:30pm EST), Unix time (the number of seconds since New Year’s 1970) will hit 1,234,567,890. I will be visiting several nerd friends in Philadelphia that evening. What drink should we have to celebrate?

  1. A power hour, starting at 5:31pm. (Dangerous, sickening, and probably too early in the evening.)
  2. 1ml of rum, 2ml of vodka, 3ml of whiskey, etc. (Adds up to almost exactly one nasty-tasting shot.)
  3. A single reasonable beer. (YAWN)
  4. ...?