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ternary search algorithm sought

Posted on 1998-04-28
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Last Modified: 2008-03-06
pleas provide me with a ternary search algorithm.  It will
search through a contiguous array of long ints returning the location of the first item in that ordered list that it finds, or returning -1 if no match is found.  The parameters for this will be the list and the target sought.
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Question by:newboy
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18 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:jaked
ID: 1256298
I'm guessing that you want a binary search algorithm--never heard of a ternary search algorithm.

Here is the code from page 38 of Bentley's Programming Pearls, translated into C:

int bsearch(int list[], int length, int item)
{
  int l=0, u=length-1, m;
  while (1) {
    /* loop invariant: item must be in list[l] .. list[u] */
    if (l > u)
      return -1;
    m = (l+u) / 2;
    if (list[m] < item) l = m + 1;
    else if (list[m] == item) return m;
    else if (list[m] > item) u = m-1;
  }
}

I suppose it could be turned into a ternary search by splitting the list three ways and expanding the list of cases... but it would probably be a little tricky to get right (binary search is famous for being incorrectly implemented). Ah... that's probably what your homework assignment is. Well, good luck to you, and go read Bentley's essay--it will help you get it right.
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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256299
There is an article on ternary searches at http://www.ddj.com/ddj/1998/1998_04/lead/lead.htm
NOTE: These assume you have aternary search tree.

For doing a ternary search, you could do this...

int tsearch(int find, int array[], int count) {
  int lo = 0;
  int hi = count-1;
  return tsearch_helper(find,array,lo,hi);
}

int tsearch_helper(int find, int array[], int lo, int hi) {
  int bot,top;
  /* if nothing to search - easy */
  if (lo > hi)
    return -1;
  /* if only one thing to search it is easy */
  if (lo == hi)
    return find == array[lo] ? lo : -1;
  /* split into three */
  int bot = (1*(lo+hi))/3; /* bottom third */
  int top = (2*(lo+hi))/3; /* top third */
  /* is it in the bottom part? */
  if (find < array[bot])
    return tsearch_helper(find,array,lo,bot-1);
  /* is it in the top part? */
  if (find > array[top])
    return tsearch_helper(find,array,top+1,hi);
  /* must be in the middle part */
  return tsearch_helper(find,array,bot,top);
}

hope this helps

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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256300
 /* split into three */
  int bot = (1*(lo+hi))/3; /* bottom third */
  int top = (2*(lo+hi))/3; /* top third */

should be

  int bot = (1*(hi-lo)/3)+lo;
  int top = (2*(hi-lo)/3)+lo;

An alternative algorithm is

int tsearch(int find, int array[], int count) {
  int bot,top,found;
  /* if nothing to search - easy */
  if (count < 0)
    return -1;
  /* if only one thing to search it is easy */
  if (count == 0)
    return find == array[0] ? 0 : -1;
  /* split into three */
  int bot = (1*n)/3; /* bottom third */
  int top = (2*n)/3; /* top third */
  /* is it in the bottom part? */
  if (find < array[bot]) {
    found = 0+tsearch_helper(find,array,bot-lo);
    return found;
  }
  /* is it in the top part? */
  if (find > array[top])
    found = tsearch_helper(find,array,count-top);
    return found < 0 ? -1 : top+1+found;
  }
  /* must be in the middle part */
  {
    found = tsearch_helper(find,array,top-bot+1);
    return found < 0 ? -1 : bot+found;
  }
}

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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256301
NOTE: The article I referred you to is by Jon Bentley and Robert Sedgewick

Bentley is the person who wrote the book jaked mentioned.  And Sedgewick is (as I understand) the guy who invented shell sort.

PS: If you have found my comments helpful and wish to reward me then you need to reject the current proposed answer so I can post one - or post a dummy question for me to answer, if you afford the points.

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LVL 2

Expert Comment

by:jaked
ID: 1256302
Interesting article.

There's really no reason to make tsearch_helper recursive; it's a tail-call so you can just reassign the variables and goto the beginning (see "Lambda, the ultimate GOTO").

Just for fun, here's an N-ary search, which takes N as a parameter:

int nsearch(int N, int list[], int length, int item)
{
  int l=0, u=length-1, m, i;
  while (1) {
    if (l > u)
      return -1;

    for (i = 1; i < N; i++) {
      m = l + (i * (u-l) / N);
      if (item < list[m]) {
      u = m-1;
      break;
      }
      else if (item == list[m])
      return m;
      else if (item > list[m])
      l = m+1;
    }
  }
}

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Author Comment

by:newboy
ID: 1256303
sorry jake...close but no cigar son !
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Accepted Solution

by:
RONSLOW earned 200 total points
ID: 1256304
What about my code

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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256305
Yes - could very easily make non-recursive (tail-end recursion is trivial to eliminate), but the recursive code shows the structure of the sort more obviously.

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LVL 84

Expert Comment

by:ozo
ID: 1256306
I prefer to let the compiler worry about eliminating trivialitys while I concentrate on the structure of the algorithm.
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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256307
It would be interesting to see if, say, VC5 compiler was smart enough to recognise the tail-end recursion and generate a jump instead of a call.

If so, then I also would rather leave the code recursive so the algorithm is clearer (and easierto maintain).

If not, then there might be some performance advantage in removing the tail recursion manually.

Maybe I (or someone else) should give it a try and look at the resulting assembly language.

BTW: typo in the line
  if (find > array[top])
it should be
  if (find > array[top]) {
(missing {)


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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256308
another typo
  int bot = (1*n)/3; /* bottom third */
  int top = (2*n)/3; /* top third */
should be
  bot = (1*count)/3; /* bottom third */
  top = (2*count)/3; /* top third */
as I've already declared these (I was thinking C++ when writing, then added declarations at the top, but forgot to remove the old ones from the body)

Other typos was referring to tsearch_help instead of tsearch and using n instead of count.

Damn .. not my night.

Here is compilable code in full..

int tsearch(int find, int array[], int count) {
  int bot,top,found;
  /* if nothing to search - easy */
  if (count < 0)
    return -1;
  /* if only one thing to search it is easy */
  if (count == 0)
    return find == array[0] ? 0 : -1;
  /* split into three */
  bot = (1*n)/3; /* bottom third */
  top = (2*n)/3; /* top third */
  /* is it in the bottom part? */
  if (find < array[bot]) {
    found = 0+tsearch(find,array,bot-lo);
    return found;
  }
  /* is it in the top part? */
  if (find > array[top]) {
    found = tsearch(find,array,count-top);
    return found < 0 ? -1 : top+1+found;
  }
  /* must be in the middle part */
  {
    found = tsearch_helper(find,array,top-bot+1);
    return found < 0 ? -1 : bot+found;
  }
}

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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256309
Damn damn damn .. still not right ... hang on...
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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256310
n-th time lucky .. try this...

int tsearch(int find, int array[], int count) {
  int bot,top,found;
  /* if nothing to search - easy */
  if (count <= 0)
    return -1;
  /* if only one thing to search it is easy */
  if (count == 1)
    return find == array[0] ? 0 : -1;
  /* split into three */
  bot = (1*count)/3; /* bottom third */
  top = (2*count)/3; /* top third */
  /* is it in the bottom part? */
  if (find < array[bot]) {
    found = 0+tsearch(find,array,bot);
    return found;
  }
  /* is it in the middle part */
  if (find < array[top]) {
    found = tsearch(find,array+bot,top-bot);
    return found < 0 ? -1 : bot+found;
  }
  /* must be in the top part? */
  {
    found = tsearch(find,array+top,count-top);
    return found < 0 ? -1 : top+found;
  }
}

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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256311
This above version generates recursive code

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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256312
This code (when optimised for speed) eliminates the tail end recursion .. looks like the helper function is the 'better' way to go here.

int tsearch_helper(int find, int array[], int lo, int hi) {
  int bot,top;
  /* if nothing to search - easy */
  if (lo > hi)
    return -1;
  /* if only one thing to search it is easy */
  if (lo == hi)
    return find == array[lo] ? lo : -1;
  /* split into three */
  bot = (1*(lo+hi))/3; /* bottom third */
  top = (2*(lo+hi))/3; /* top third */
  /* is it in the bottom part? */
  if (find < array[bot])
    return tsearch_helper(find,array,lo,bot-1);
  /* is it in the middle part */
  if (find < array[top])
    return tsearch_helper(find,array,bot,top-1);
  /* must be in the top part? */
    return tsearch_helper(find,array,top,hi);
}

int tsearch(int find, int array[], int count) {
  int lo = 0;
  int hi = count-1;
  return tsearch_helper(find,array,lo,hi);
}

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Expert Comment

by:jaked
ID: 1256313
I told you it was tricky. This last one still isn't right--you compute bot and top wrong (although you got them right in a previous version). Here is a *correct* version. The loop invariant technique that Bentley talks about is good for getting this kind of thing right.

int tsearch(int list[], int length, int item)
{
  int l=0, u=length-1, m, n;
  while (1) {
    /* loop invariant: item must be in list[l] .. list[u] */
    if (l > u)
      return -1;
    m = l + (u-l) / 3;
    n = l + 2 * (u-l) / 3;
    if      (item <  list[m]) u = m-1;
    else if (item == list[m]) return m;
    else if (item <  list[n]) { l = m+1; u = n-1; }
    else if (item == list[n]) return n;
    else if (item >  list[n]) l = n+1;
  }
}

I would be surprised if most C compilers do tail-call optimization--it would be interesting to test a few and see. But the point is well taken: it's better to write your algorithm clearly first, and hand-optimize later (if the routine turns out to be a hot spot).
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Expert Comment

by:ozo
ID: 1256314
So does the routine turn out to be a hot spot for newboy?

I agree that thinking in terms of loop invariants is a very good way to approach problems like this.
That may be the most important lesson newboy learns from all this.

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Expert Comment

by:RONSLOW
ID: 1256315
it's certainly not been my day for writing code :-( ... forgot to add lo to the bot and top.  (sigh)

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