Have you ever wondered how programming languages come to life? Most functional languages, like the ones we teach at The Coding Space, began as solutions to coding problems. But sometimes, a programming language creator doesn’t want to inhabit such a utilitarian mindset — they want to express their creativity, inject some humor into their work, or show off their niche trivia knowledge.
Welcome to the world of esoteric programming languages, where programmers push the conventions of language design. These languages are not meant to be easy to use. Quite the opposite: they are designed to challenge and amuse coders with their weirdness.
There is scientific proof that humor boosts creativity and pattern-recognition. In a study that took place at Northwestern University, one group of participants watched a comedy, while the other watched a horror movie. After that, both groups were tasked with solving a word-association puzzle. Can you guess which group was more effective AND more creative?
At TCS, we love these endearingly weird programming languages, not just for their off-kilter humor, but for how they encourage creativity in those who use them. Here are 8 of the most impractical, outlandish, and off-the-wall coding languages ever created.
LOLCODE was created in 2007 by Adam Lindsay, researcher at Lancaster University. It’s a language comprised entirely of meme-ified “lolspeak”. It may not be the most functional coding language, but what LOLCODE lacks in usefulness, it more than makes up for in hilarity and cuteness. Take a look at the “Hello World!” code!
If you love a genteel Elizabethan romance, you’ll love the Shakespeare programming language. Created by Jon Aslund and Karl Hesselstörm, this language reads exactly like a Shakespeare play, including Shakespearean characters, titles, scenes, acts, and stage directions. Because this code is designed to read like a play, it’s quite lengthy — but here’s an excerpt of the “Hello World” code (full version is available here).
Developed by Ryan Kusnery, ReMorse is a programming language that was made to look like Morse code. There are only four instructions: dot (.), dotty (. followed by a space), dash (-) and dasher (- followed by a space).
Taxi is a coding language that looks like directions on a roadmap, replacing traditional coding elements like varialbes, classes, and functions with places, cities, and directions.
Velato is a melodious coding language created by Daniel Temkin that uses MIDI files as the source code, with the commands determined by the pitch and order of notes. Check out the “Hello World” code to see what it looks like in practice!
ArnoldC is a programming language consisting exclusively of (get this) one-liners from movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — especially classics such as Terminator, Predator and Total Recall. ArnoldC was created by Lauri Hartikka, who started by swapping out standard commands for an equivalent Arnold one-liner. For example, the standard commands “False” and “True” become “I LIED” and “NO PROBLEMO”, and “Return” becomes “I’LL BE BACK” Here’s what the (frankly hilarious) "Hello World!" code looks like.
Chef, created by David Morgan-Mar, is a programming language that looks like a recipe. The extra twist in this coding language is that, in order for the code to be valid, the recipes have to work both as code AND as functional recipes that make for delicious meals for cooks with different tastes and budgets. Chef is the perfect language for coders looking for an extra scoop of challenge in their coding fun.
Chicken is a programming language consisting of only one word: chicken. It was created by Swedish programmer Torbjörn Söderstedt, who was inspired to create it after reading Doug Zongker’s parody of incomprehensible scientific papers. Here is the paper that inspired the language, and check out the image to the right for, believe it or not, an excerpt from the “Hello World” code.
Ook! was created by serial esoteric language developer David Morgan-Mar, and it involves three words: "Ook.", "Ook?" and "Ook!". In developing Ook!, Morgan-Mar was attempting to create a programming language "writable and readable by orangutans". Yeah, we didn’t believe it when we heard it the first time either.
In Juraj Borza’s programming language Omgrofl (“oh my god rolling on the floor laughing”’), all of the commands are made up of internet acronyms — “lol”, “brb”, “kthx”, etc. Here’s what the source code for “Hello World!” looks like.