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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
halting problem
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The problem of determining in advance whether a particular
program or algorithm will terminate or run forever. The
halting problem is the canonical example of a provablyunsolvable problem. Obviously any attempt to answer the
question by actually executing the algorithm or simulating
each step of its execution will only give an answer if the
algorithm under consideration does terminate, otherwise the
algorithm attempting to answer the question will itself run
Some special cases of the halting problem are partially
solvable given sufficient resources. For example, if it is
possible to record the complete state of the execution of the
algorithm at each step and the current state is ever identical
to some previous state then the algorithm is in a loop. This
might require an arbitrary amount of storage however.
Alternatively, if there are at most N possible different
states then the algorithm can run for at most N steps without