12 Bizarre Programming Languages You Have Never Heard Of

No matter how good you are at programming, you have to admit that programming languages are hard; hard, with every letter CAPITALIZED and bolded, and learning one (if you were to start right now) would take months if not years to master. And we’re talking about the most used programming languages.

Now, imagine that aside from your regular, popular languages, you have the oddities – those weird languages that you can catch a glimpse of only when going to see a traveling circus. And even then the ringleader has to look deep into your eyes to make sure your stomach is strong enough for what you are about to see. We live in the 21st century, after all.

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The languages we are talking about are usually referred to as Esoteric languages (or esolang, for short), and seriously now, they are not meant for normal use. They are designed for the purpose of testing the boundaries of programming language, experimenting with new idea, or just plain ol’ jokes.

Today, we will be talking about a few of these bizarre programming languages, so that you will feel like a luckier person for working with an ordinary one (or give you a few ideas if you want to start playing around with a new language).

1. Brainf***

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Created in 1993 by Urban Müller with the intention of making a language that could be implemented on the smallest possible compiler, Brainf*** is inspired by the 1024-byte compiler for the FALSE programming language.

It consists of eight commands, and a program is a sequence of these commands, which are executed sequentially, with a few exceptions: an instruction pointer begins at the first command, and runs down the list until each command is executed.

2. Piet

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Piet is not only bizarre but really cool, as well.

It is named after Piet Mondrian, Dutch painter and an important contributor to the De Stijl (also a White Stripes album) art movement and group, founded by Theo Van Doesburg.

What the language does is it transforms programs into geometric abstract paintings, like the ones Mondrian did. Programs are made up of 29 different colors and are read by compilers based on the hex values.

3. Intercal

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The first ever esoteric programming language, Intercal is, in fact, an acronym for “Complier Language with No Pronounceable Acronym”, and it was invented in 1972, by Donald Woods and James Lyon.

In our opinion, Intercal is the kind of programming language that Terry Pratchett would have come up with. For example, “PLEASE” is a modifier in Intercal, and it can lead to a program’s rejection by the compiler for the following reason: not enough use of “PLEASE”. If the modifier does not show up enough times, the program is deemed “insufficiently polite”, as the error message itself informs you.

4. FALSE

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FALSE, as we have mentioned earlier, is the inspiration behind our first entry (and perhaps a few more) on our list. It was created in 1992 by Wouter van Oortmerssen, and its syntax is specially designed to be confusing and unreadable. It is, however, one of the most understandable esolangs, as it has been used in toy programs and an HTML-table generator.

5. Befunge

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Befunge is the brainchild of Chris Pressey. He invented it in 1993; his sole purpose being the creation of something as difficult to compile as humanly possible. It boasts a lovely self-modifying code and a two-dimensional grid (called “the playfield”) so the same instruction can be executed in four different directions.

6. Ook!

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Ok, so maybe this is the programming language that Terry Pratchett would have created. All the commands are variations of the orangutan “call”. For a few examples of commands, check out this article.

7. Chef

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David Morgan-Mar created this programming language so as to make it look more like a cooking recipe: variables are named after ingredients, stacks are mixing bowls or baking dishes, and instructions include things like stir and mix.

8. LOLCODE

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No prize if you have figured out what LOLCODE is based on. It is made to be imitashun of the well-known LOLCats meme.

Created by Adam Lindsay in 2007, this language is a favorite of many programmers, because lolcats will always be funny. To take a look at an example of how to write Hello World, check out this link here.

9. ArnoldC

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Lauri Hartikka created this programming language as an homage to The Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In it, standard commands are replaced with equivalent one-liners from Arnie’s iconic movies. For example, “FALSE” is “I LIED” and “TRUE” is “NO PROBLEMO”. To see the specifications that you need to get started with Arnold C, click this link.

10. Whitespace

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Designed in 2002 by Edwin Brady and Chris Morris, Whitespace uses only whitespace characters as syntax, ignoring any non-whitespace ones.

When it was released on April 1st, 2003, many people thought it was a joke, but the joke was on them. Seeing as Whitespace assigns little to no meaning to non-whitespace characters, programs made in this language can be easily contained in characters of a program written in another language, making the text a polyglot.

11. Velato

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Velato was created by Daniel Temkin, and it uses MIDI files as the source code. Commands are determined by the pitch and order of the notes. Most programs or applications made with the code have a jazzy vibe to them.

12. Shakespeare

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Programming language and Shakespearean language should never meet, but that did not stop Jon Åslund and Karl Hasselström from creating the SPL (Shakespeare Programming Language). It makes the source code look like a script from one of the author’s plays, and the result looks something like this.

That wraps up our article on bizarre programming languages you never heard of. We hope you had a good laugh reading our list because we sure did.

Tell us what you think about the article, in the comments below, and if you know any other weird and wonderful programming languages, share those as well.

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