Holy cow, I wrote a book!
On more than one occasion, I've seen someone ask a question like this:
I have some procedure that generates strings dynamically,
and I want a formula that takes a string and produces a
small unique identifer for that string (a hash code),
such that two identical strings have the same identifier,
and that if two strings are different, then they will have different
I tried String.GetHashCode(), but there were occasional collisions.
Is there a way to generate a hash code that guarantees uniqueness?
If you can restrict the domain of the
strings you're hashing, you can sometimes squeak out uniqueness.
For example, if the domain is a finite set, you can develop
which guarantees no collisions among the domain strings.
In the general case, where you do not know what strings you are
going to be hashing, this is not possible.
Suppose your hash code is a 32-bit value.
This means that there are 232 possible hash values.
But there are more than 232 possible strings.
Therefore, by the pigeonhole principle, there must exist at least
two strings with the same hash code.
One little-known fact about
the pigeonhole principle
is that it has nothing to do with pigeons.
The term "pigeonhole" refers to
a small compartment in a desk
into which items such as papers or letters are distributed.
(Hence the verb "to pigeonhole": To assign a category, often based on
The pigeonhole principle, then, refers to the process of sorting
papers into pigeonholes, and not the nesting habits of
members of the family Columbidae.