Esoteric Programming Languages


“Yeah… this is just too easy to program in. Let’s make this waaay harder than it needs to be.”

You know what the world needs? A concerted effort to make computer programming even harder. Because I really miss the feeling of tracking down that missing semicolon for ten hours.  Or a missing minus sign, which happened for me a few days ago the night we set our clocks back.  Yes, I wasted the free hour we get every fall, looking for a missing minus sign.  And that was in the world’s easiest programming language, Matlab.  While the real programmers begin scoffing at me for Matlab (their asthmatic “pshaw!”-ing blowing the bagel crumbs off their obscure-programming-joke T-shirts), allow me to take the rest of you on a tour of the world of hobbyist programming languages.

Welcome to the world of esoteric programming languages — completely new computer programming languages (like Java or C++) invented solely to be difficult to program in. Wait, what? Why would anyone do this, when regular old programming is hard enough? Sometimes its a drive for minimalism, sometimes an academic exercise to explore various abstract constraints (“we don’t really need variables, do we?”). But often, its simply to be a pain in the ass. But in all cases, these are real, completely operational programming languages.  (Albeit so difficult that in some cases it was a major accomplishment when someone finally wrote a valid, compilable program in the language).

There are now hundreds of such languages, which you can peruse at sites such as The Esolang Wiki, Cat’s Eye Technologies, and David Morgan-Mar’s site (more on him later).  But I have a few favorites that I want to share with the world.  Let’s take a tour of some of these glorious masterpieces:

Minimalism to the Extreme

Why do I have to type out the entire word to execute some command, when just a letter or two would do? Do we really need the ‘for’ loop and the ‘while’ loop?  Let’s cut out the fat and strip our language down to the basics. It’ll make our code impossible to read, but why should we let that stop us?  Check out Minimalism to the extreme for the best of the ascetic monks…

Regular Code is Boring.  Let’s Make This Funner To Read

Man, code is boring.   All parentheses and indentations.  Booo-ring!  Ugh, look at all these tedious objects that are oriented and such — snooze.  What’s more, our code isn’t readable by orangutans!  Check out the languages that solve these problems that didn’t need to be solved, in our survey of Funner Programming Languages...

Only Total Squares Use ASCII

Why let yourself be bound by the western conventions of using “words”, or “understandable commands”, or “characters you can make with your keyboard”? Get with it, man! Free your mind, and your code will follow!  Check out our review of languages for those who Want to move beyond ASCII

Oh, You Think You’re Smart?  Try Programming in These

Alright, enough screwing around. The other languages were cute, but let’s take a look at the big leagues. Program in these at your own risk — The Hardest Esoteric Programming Languages Of All 

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