Advent of Code 2019 Day 2

This year I have decided to try and do the code challenges on the Advent of Code website in Scala and possibly Spark if needed (or an interesting solution arises).
These are simple little coding challenges given once per day like an Advent Calendar before Christmas.

I am starting a day late on the 2nd of December, but this hopefully means my solutions will not spoil it for anyone else!

Day 2: Part 1

This days challenge is quite different to Day 1 and involves creating a simple interpreter or emulator for processing a simple input program and set of opcodes.

I have decided not to copy and paste the whole challenge here for brevity’s sake but I will refer back to parts. I encourage you to read the whole challenge before continuing.

We are tasked with building a “computer” to interpret “Intcode” programs:

An Intcode program is a list of integers separated by commas (like 1,0,0,3,99). To run one, start by looking at the first integer (called position 0). Here, you will find an opcode - either 1, 2, or 99. The opcode indicates what to do; for example, 99 means that the program is finished and should immediately halt. Encountering an unknown opcode means something went wrong.

We are provided with 3 opcodes in this part of the task, 1, 2, and 99.

Opcode 1 does the following:

Opcode 1 adds together numbers read from two positions and stores the result in a third position. The three integers immediately after the opcode tell you these three positions - the first two indicate the positions from which you should read the input values, and the third indicates the position at which the output should be stored.

And opcode 2 does:

Opcode 2 works exactly like opcode 1, except it multiplies the two inputs instead of adding them. Again, the three integers after the opcode indicate where the inputs and outputs are, not their values.

With opcode 99 halting the program.

We are also told how to move on to the next operation when done calculating the current opcode:

Once you’re done processing an opcode, move to the next one by stepping forward 4 positions.

It is useful to note that all opcodes and data in this task appears to be integers.

It is also useful to realise that from the description of this task we are actually implementing a very simple computer with Von Neumann architecture, that is, a computer where program input and output and program instructions are stored within the same space, and is the basis of most common computers in use today.
An interesting side-effect of this architecture is that code can be self modifying.

As part of this task we are given some example inputs and their eventual outputs which will be useful when testing our implementation:

Here are the initial and final states of a few more small programs:

  • 1,0,0,0,99 becomes 2,0,0,0,99 (1 + 1 = 2).
  • 2,3,0,3,99 becomes 2,3,0,6,99 (3 * 2 = 6).
  • 2,4,4,5,99,0 becomes 2,4,4,5,99,9801 (99 * 99 = 9801).
  • 1,1,1,4,99,5,6,0,99 becomes 30,1,1,4,2,5,6,0,99.

Our overall task is given at the end as:

Once you have a working computer, the first step is to restore the gravity assist program (your puzzle input) to the “1202 program alarm” state it had just before the last computer caught fire. To do this, before running the program, replace position 1 with the value 12 and replace position 2 with the value 2. What value is left at position 0 after the program halts?

Implementing the Computer

We first need to read in the input program and convert it into a structure our program can use.


val filename = "day2.input.txt"
// Open the input file
val bufferedSource = Source.fromFile(filename)

// Convert the contents into our opcodes
val originalOpcodes: Array[Int] = bufferedSource.mkString
  .map(string => string.toInt)

// Close the input file

This code will convert the input file into an array of integers ready for us to work with.
The mkString method will load the whole contents of the file into a string then the trim method removes any trailing spaces, with the split and map methods dividing the string up on the commas and converting that output to integers.

Now with our 3 given opcodes we should define some kind of structure to make calculating them easier. Since this is a quick puzzle I will opt for defining a simple functions and will also use the scala type keyword to try and make my code easier to understand.

I will be making use of Scala’s mutable indexed type mutable.IndexedSeq to store the working memory of the program that will be read and modified by each operation:

type Memory = Array[Int]
type Position = Int
type Opcode = Int

// Simple Operation type:
// Taking in the current memory state and position and outputting the new
// state and position
type Operation = (Memory, Position) => (Memory, Position)

Now I can create a simple lookup table of opcodes and their operations:

type Memory = mutable.IndexedSeq[Int]
type Opcode = Int

// Simple Operation type:
// Taking in the current position in memory and memory itself and outputting
// the new position and whether this operation should halt or not.
type Operation = (Int, Memory) => (Int, Boolean)

// The add operation
val addOp: Operation = (pos: Int, memory: Memory) => {
  val inputAddress1 = memory(pos + 1)
  val inputAddress2 = memory(pos + 2)
  val outputAddress = memory(pos + 3)
  memory(outputAddress) = memory(inputAddress1) + memory(inputAddress2)
  (pos + 4, false)

// The multiply operation
val multiplyOp: Operation = (pos: Int, memory: Memory) => {
  val inputAddress1 = memory(pos + 1)
  val inputAddress2 = memory(pos + 2)
  val outputAddress = memory(pos + 3)
  memory(outputAddress) = memory(inputAddress1) * memory(inputAddress2)
  (pos + 4, false)

// The simple halting operation
val haltOp: Operation = (pos: Int, memory: Memory) => {
  (pos, true)

// The map of opcodes to their operations
val opcodeMap = Map[Opcode, Operation](
  (1, addOp),
  (2, multiplyOp),
  (99, haltOp)

Now we have a simple map of opcodes to their operations we need to write the code to execute them:

val errorOp: Operation = (pos: Int, memory: Memory) => {
  val opcode = memory(pos)
  println(s"Unknown opcode encountered at $pos: $opcode")
  (pos, true)

def iterate(pos: Int, memory: Memory): Unit = {
  val opcode = memory(pos)
  val operation = opcodeMap.getOrElse(opcode, errorOp)
  val (newPos, shouldHalt) = operation(pos, memory)
  if (shouldHalt) {
  iterate(newPos, memory)

This method will take in a position in memory and the memory itself and execute opcodes on it until it reaches an operation that will cause it to halt.
I have done this using the Tail Recursion support in Scala to make it easy to read. This will avoid stack overflow issues.

I have also added an error operation that will be executed upon hitting an unknown opcode.

We can test one of the examples:

val mainMemory: Memory = mutable.IndexedSeq(2,4,4,5,99,0)

iterate(0, mainMemory)

val finalOutput = mainMemory.mkString(",")

This will output: 2,4,4,5,99,9801

We can run this with the file contents my copying the original code to the memory variable:

val mainMemory: Memory = mutable.IndexedSeq(originalOpcodes: _*)

Of course the task also instructs us to fix the program:

To do this, before running the program, replace position 1 with the value 12 and replace position 2 with the value 2.

mainMemory(1) = 12
mainMemory(2) = 2

Then execute it.
And we have the answer to the puzzle in index 0.

Day 2: Part 2

The second part of the day requires us to figure out the inputs to the program that will result in an expected value.

“With terminology out of the way, we’re ready to proceed. To complete the gravity assist, you need to determine what pair of inputs produces the output 19690720.”

Something important noted in the puzzle is that opcodes can move the position in memory a variable amount of steps depending on what instructions there are:

The address of the current instruction is called the instruction pointer; it starts at 0. After an instruction finishes, the instruction pointer increases by the number of values in the instruction; until you add more instructions to the computer, this is always 4 (1 opcode + 3 parameters) for the add and multiply instructions. (The halt instruction would increase the instruction pointer by 1, but it halts the program instead.)

This actually means our halt instruction should technically look like:

val haltOp: Operation = (pos: Int, memory: Memory) => {
  (pos + 1, true)

The following extra details are provided to narrow down the search:

The inputs should still be provided to the program by replacing the values at addresses 1 and 2, just like before. In this program, the value placed in address 1 is called the noun, and the value placed in address 2 is called the verb. Each of the two input values will be between 0 and 99, inclusive.

This narrows down our search somewhat.

To repeat what we need to do is:

Find the input noun and verb that cause the program to produce the output 19690720. What is 100 * noun + verb? (For example, if noun=12 and verb=2, the answer would be 1202.)

It is also suggested that we should make sure to reset the memory to the original opcodes before each attempt.

To this end we can write a function to make it easier to test various inputs:

def decode(noun: Int, verb: Int, originalMemory: IndexedSeq[Int]): Int = {
  val mainMemory: Memory = mutable.IndexedSeq(originalMemory: _*)
  mainMemory(1) = noun
  mainMemory(2) = verb
  iterate(0, mainMemory)

This will execute for the given noun and verb pair and output the result.

We can then brute force the answer to the puzzle:

val random = scala.util.Random
var output: Int = 0
var noun: Int = 0
var verb: Int = 0
while (output != 19690720) {
  noun = random.nextInt(100)
  verb = random.nextInt(100)
  output = decode(noun, verb, originalOpcodes)
println(s"noun=$noun verb=$verb")
val answer = 100 * noun + verb

And this will output the solution to part 2!

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