Esoteric Programming Languages

Dr. Mathias Elsner

Remaining sane in insane times

What is an Esolang?

Wikipedia says: "An esoteric programming language (sometimes shortened to esolang) is a programming language designed to test the boundaries of computer programming language design, as a proof of concept, as software art, as a hacking interface to another language (particularly functional programming or procedural programming languages), or as a joke. [...]"


Here's the link to the full Wikipedia article

Huge collection of esoteric languages: esolangs.org

Apart from the rarely implemented theoretical language P'', which Corrado Böhm developed in 1964 for the simulation of Turing machines, as well as the language "Intercal" originally written as satire in 1972, a rapid development of numerous esolangs took off in the 1990s.


Early languages served as illustrating models for mathematical principles and paradigms in information technology. Examples are Brainfuck and Befunge (both 1993). This development has assumed extreme excesses in Malbogle (1998), a practically unreadable and unwritable language.


However, many newer esolangs represent more or less successful humorous modifications of existing languages. For example, Ook! and !! Fuck represent only very banal paraphrases of brainfuck, without any semantic or structural features of their own. A challenge may be sought in n-dimensional languages ‚Äč‚Äčlike Trefunge (3D) or Dimensions. The latter sports a 52-dimensional code space. Understanding this language may be reserved for string theorists...


Esolangs rule!

Too many choices...
In the meantime, the number of esoteric programming languages has grown to more than 1,000. However, many of them are redundant variations of existing esolangs, or struggle at being original. Actually these classics will do:


  1. Intercal
    (The mother of all esolangs)
  2. Brainfuck
    (Turing-machine à la P'')
  3. Befunge
    (2D & self modifying)
  4. Shakespeare
    (More language than program)
  5. Whitespace
    (Fiendishly polyglot, non-verbal)
  6. Malbogle
    (Truly incomprehensible)

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