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RESEARCHER SOLVES CREDIT CARD NUMBER DESPACING PROBLEM

Discovery Untangles One of Computer Science's Most Difficult Mysteries


Seaside, CA — July 13, 2005
A California researcher has solved an applied mathematics problem that has challenged computer scientists since the dawn of e-commerce.

Earl Vickers, a software engineer in Seaside, California, solved the so-called "Credit Card Number Despacing" problem. Stated in its simplest form, the challenge is to decrypt a 16-digit number that has been obfuscated by the insertion of spaces between every four digits. A related problem involves the use of hyphens.

A "real world" instance of this problem is typically encountered when making purchases over the Internet. Upon entering a credit card number, the consumer is often chastised with a message stating: "Card Number should NOT contain spaces or dashes." The inability of web sites to process such numbers has annoyed customers and slowed the advance of online shopping.

"The complexity of the CCND problem is not hard to imagine," notes Vickers. "With many advanced mathematical problems, a brute-force approach may require over 100 times the age of the universe."

The key to solving the problem was the realization that, given a reasonably fast computer, one could simply step through each of the characters one by one and discard anything that was not a number.

Vickers downplays the attention he has received as a result of the discovery.

"Actually, I'm a little surprised no one thought of this before," he says.

Nevertheless, he is pleased about the potential impact of his work, and he hopes to take on similarly difficult problems in the future. In the meantime, he plans to patent the algorithm and offer it to a wide range of e-commerce companies.


For more information about the Credit Card Number Despacing problem or to license the CCND algorithm, contact Earl Vickers at curator@MuseumOfConceptualArt.com .

 

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