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Stamp Calculator


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

I watched the clerk fumbling trying to figure out a combination of stamps to make up $1.30 CAD to send a package to the USA. He finally settled on a 85 + 25 + 10 cent stamp. The purpose of this computer program is to help such a clerk. It is a very simple project.

You need an inventory of stamps and denominations. You might first try a simpler version of the program where you have an infinite supply of each denomination. Your job is to come up with the minimum number of stamps that will add up to a given quantity needed to mail the parcel. This problem is closely allied to the problem of giving change in toonies, loons, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. You might tackle that problem first before trying this one.

Stamps don’t come in even multiples the way coins do, so the problem is a trickier and requires backtracking. When you find a solution, it is not necessarily the best solution. For example it is better to make up $0.50 with 2 × 24 than 47 + 2 + 1. You can’t count on having an infinite supply of 1 cent stamps as a brute force solution.

I have seen Canadian stamps in the following denominations: 0.01 0.02 0.05 0.10 0.25 0.46 0.47 0.55 0.60 0.95 1.05 1.50. Of course, you won’t necessarily have an infinite supply of all of them on hand.

The other way to handle this is to print your own postage on your laser printer. Logo

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