A Link for Dad

My Dad went though a period where he played a lot of FreeCell, an interest which eventually gave way to Sudoku, and probably something else by now. Anyway, Dad, I thought this was a really neat article:


Dave Ring is a hard man to find. Given that he launched one of the earliest crowdsourced internet projects—if not the first—one would expect Ring to be something of an online superstar. He was using group power before Huffington had a Post, back when Amazon was just a river.

But when you Google his name—the smell test of millennial relevancy—our Dave is buried beneath Dave Ring the stand-up comedian, Dave Ring the editorial consultant, and Dave Ring the mentally disabled televangelist. Perhaps the web has obscured Dave Ring the internet revolutionary because his project was, from the most straightforward perspective, a bust. In the summer of ’94, Ring led 110 online comrades to beat a video game called FreeCell. They lost.

It kind of goes into the math of FreeCell, and how Dave Ring organized an effort to determine whether each and every hand of FreeCell was theoretically winnable.

So when that final push on No. 11,982—an effort aided by humans and even a handful of game-solving programs—met with failure, Ring celebrated. Is every hand in FreeCell winnable? No. Thirty-one thousand nine hundred ninety-nine hands are winnable. And one isn’t. He proved that. He had solved one mystery of the universe.

Just a fun little piece.

5 Responses to “A Link for Dad”

  • Dad Says:

    Enjoyed this Shannon. When I played a lot, one thing I did was note my longest streak of consecutive wins. The highest was somewhere between 300-400, I think. I didn’t go for speed–I don’t go for speed today with Sudokus, KenKens, or crossword puzzles. But (here’s the point) I ALWAYS eventually lost, but I never dreamed that any game was UNWINNABLE. I just assumed I’d messed up. So this is a long-awaited relief–surely ONE of my losses was the unwinnable hand. IT WASN’T MY FAULT. In fact, it occurs to me that I must have drawn that hand REPEATEDLY! No more free cell, but I still do the others pretty regularly–I’m weakest at KenKens (I miss more of the NYT 7x7s than I get), best (good but not great) at crosswords. They’re all fun… Love, Dad

  • Dad Says:

    I tried to leave a pretty lengthy comment, but it didn’t send (maybe too long?). I was better at FreeCell! Thanks, I enjoyed this. Love, Dad

    • shannon Says:

      Hey Dad — your comments got held up in moderation because you’ve never posted here before, so the blog wanted me to make sure you’re not a spammer. Now that I’ve approved you, you’ll be able to comment without any wait time.

      Congratulations on your first comment to my blog! 🙂

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