Fox, Chicken, and Corn

Remembering dad

24 Jun 2018

When I was about six in 1971-72, I remember sitting at the kitchen table, with its plastic cross-weave patterned tablecloth. My dad brought home this electronic contraption with three or four big black switches and other components. He said it was called “The fox and chicken game.” It was pretty big, mounted on a board, arranged something like this.

crude image of game made of electronic components

At the time, my dad was taking the CREI electronics course and this must’ve been one of his projects. He loved sharing things he learned with everyone, especially me, and I truly enjoyed these experiences with him.

This game he brought home was to demonstrate the use of an exclusive or (XOR) gate. The object of the game is to move the three items to the other side of the river on a boat that can carry you and up to one additional item. The thing is, you cannot leave either the fox and chicken or the chicken and corn on either side of the river unattended. Otherwise, the fox will eat the chicken or the chicken will eat the corn. That’s the game.

He gave me a hint, “Always start with the chicken. The chicken is the key.” Then he talked about the exclusive or in the connection between you and the chicken and how bad things happen when you and the chicken are on opposite sides of the river. (When the state of A XOR B is true, A and B are on opposite sides.)

Yes, these were the explanations my dad would give me as a child. Sometimes I understood; others I just nodded and played along. Either way didn’t matter much to me. It was time with dad. Later in his life, far too late actually, I thought back on that fox-chicken game and wrote this little perl script in hopes to share it with him.

Unfortunately he lived on the other side of the country, my visits were few and far between, and when I did visit, his failing eyesight made sharing computer experiences rather difficult. In just a few months after I set him up with a tablet for us to communicate more, he passed on. He’s remembered for many qualities such as being kind hearted, but this little game is one of those things that serves as a reminder of the many times we did spend together talking about electronics, flight simulators, side-looking radar, and all the wonderful interesting things about his life experiences and the technology he was so passionate about.

Miss ya, Dad.

July 2018 Update: So I found the circuit diagram, which prodded my memory about him saying that the chicken is the key, and how he easily remembered the XOR gate because you cross the wires (‘X’) to make it.