For years, computer scientists have been trying to find efficient solutions to different computing problems. For some of them efficient algorithms are already available, these are the “easy” problems like sorting, evaluating a polynomial or finding the shortest path in a graph. For the “hard” ones only exponential-time algorithms are known. The traveling-salesman problem belongs to this latter group. Given a set of N towns and roads between these towns, the problem is to compute the shortest path allowing a salesman to visit each of the towns once and only once and return to the starting point.
The president of Gridland has hired you to design a program that calculates the length of the shortest traveling-salesman tour for the towns in the country. In Gridland, there is one town at each of the points of a rectangular grid. Roads run from every town in the directions North, Northwest, West, Southwest, South, Southeast, East, and Northeast, provided that there is a neighbouring town in that direction. The distance between neighbouring towns in directions North–South or East–West is 1 unit. The length of the roads is measured by the Euclidean distance. For example, Figure 7 shows 2 × 3-Gridland, i.e., a rectangular grid of dimensions 2 by 3. In 2 × 3-Gridland, the shortest tour has length 6.