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programming languagesOkay – you know your variables and you know you declarations. You can write something more advanced than ‘Hello World’. But if you think that you know every programming logic in the world, think again. Programming and logic co-exist…one is a Siamese twin of the other. But there are some very strange and bizarre programming languages which have turned logic on its head and have still managed to stay true to the science of communication with a computer. You are going to hear about ten programming languages you probably never heard of.

By the end of this post, you will be telling me – “You got to be kidding!” Believe me I am not. The computer not only understands zeros and ones, it gets a bit of humor too. How else can you explain the very real existence of these crazy and zany programming languages?

So, here’s the lineup of some esoteric programming languages and a few that actually do some work.

Befunge

programming languages

Origin: Befunge was invented in 1993 by Chris Pressey.

Described as an esoteric programming language, it is quite well described in Wikipedia. An esoteric programming language is a computer programming language designed to experiment with weird ideas, to be hard to program in, or as a joke, rather than for practical use. The strange goal of designing Befunge was to make a language that would be as difficult to compile as possible.

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It is a two-dimensional, ASCII based language that is arranged in a ‘playfield’ (a two-dimensional grid). Arrows (<,>,^,v) are the main syntax that’s used to send instructions to the left, right, up, and down. Loops are constructed by sending the control flow in a cycle.

Read more about Befunge on the Esolang Wiki

Brainf**k

computer programming languages

Origin: Brainf**k was invented by Urban Müller in 1993. He wanted to develop the smallest possible compiler for the Amiga OS (version 2.0) using a new language. He managed to write a 240-byte compiler and later brought it down to below 200.

Along with Befunge, it is the more well-known of the esoteric programming languages. Both also have spawned other brain-twisting languages of their ilk. As it sounds offensive, it is also written as brainf***, brainf*ck, brainfsck, b****fuck or BF. The language uses a combination of eight commands – > < + – . , [ ] The absolutely minimalistic program is very difficult to use as like most esoteric languages it has no variables, no functions, no conditionals…which are part and parcel of common programming languages.

Read more about Brainf**k on the Esolang Wiki.

Piet

computer programming languages

Origin: It was created by David Morgan-Mar and was named after geometric abstract art pioneer, Piet Mondrian.

Piet is another esoteric programming language where the code resembles an abstract painting. It uses 20 distinct colors which are arranged in blocks. Each color corresponds to a specific behavior. Commands are defined by the transition of color from one color block to the next as the interpreter travels through the program.

Read more about Piet on the developer’s own page

Shakespeare

computer programming languages

Origin: It was developed by the Swedish duo of Jon Åslund and Karl Hasselström almost in one night (at least the core part) as a lab project while they were in university.

SPL (Shakespeare Programming Language) is a language with ‘beautiful’ source code that is resembles Shakespeare’s plays. The main purpose was to make programs appear something other than programs. The language has title, characters, acts and scenes, enter and exit directives, lines just as you would expect in a Shakespearean play. For instance, the characters are the variables.  It took its inspiration from the defined structured format of the plays. Compared to other esoteric programming languages, SPL is easily understood because the program itself is written in plain English and in drama form.

Read more about SPL on its homepage.

Whitespace

computer programming languages

Origin: It was created by Edwin Brady and Chris Morris at the University of Durham and released on April Fool’s Day, 2003.

Does exactly what it means by its name. It creates…whitespace. The project website says it best –

Most modern programming languages do not consider white space characters (spaces, tabs and newlines) syntax, ignoring them, as if they weren’t there. We consider this to be a gross injustice to these perfectly friendly members of the character set. Should they be ignored, just because they are invisible? Whitespace is a language that seeks to redress the balance. Any non-whitespace characters are ignored; only spaces, tabs and newlines are considered syntax.

And it goes on to say that it is a perfect language for spies because no once will guess that a blank piece of paper hides vital computer code.

Read more about Whitespace on its homepage.

Ook!

Origin: Created not by Tarzan, but again by David Morgan-Mar as an esoteric programming language which is more of a joke.

A language that resembles a pigeon call has to be in the ‘strange programming language’ category. But even strangely, it is not designed for birds. It is designed for orangutans in particular and primates in general. Believe me or not.  The creator of Ook! and Brainfuck being the same, the language structure is the same except the commands used in Brainfuck are replaced by the Orangutan call and has less syntax elements (only three – Ook./Ook?/Ook!).

Read more (especially about the design principles) on the Ook page.

Velato

list of programming languages

Origin: It was created by Daniel Temkin in 2009. He has also created other languages based around digital media like Light Pattern (it uses pictures)

Velato is a programming language which uses MIDI files as source code where the pattern of notes and its pitch and order determines commands. Velato produces jazz-like sounds but it is not a language to create music, but to create workable programs that can sound good. The screen shows the ‘Hello World’ program as sheet music (not code).

Read more about Velato on the developer’s blog.

Inform

list of programming languages

Origin: It was created in 1993 by Graham Nelson.

If Shakespeare can be about plays, Inform as a programming language is about fiction. It is a language developed specifically for writing interactive fiction.  Of all the languages on this list, it is actually usable and quite popular too in the writing community. It is an object-oriented and procedural language. It has also been used to design story-based interactive games like Savoir-faire and Floatpoint.

Read more about Inform at the Inform 7 Official Site.

BLISS

list of programming languages

Origin: It was developed at Carnegie Mellon University by W. A. Wulf, D. B. Russell, and A. N. Habermann in 1969. It stands for Basic Language for Implementation of System Software.

It was a well-known systems programming language on the scene till C came along. It has many features that are found in more modern high-level languages like block structures, an automatic stack, macros, and recursive routines. It was also unusual for its time in that it was a typeless programming language (a variable can contain any kind of value (numeric, string, boolean). BLISS was used by Digital Equipment Corp. for system programming and went into their VAX line of computers. BLISS is no longer widely used.

Read more on Wikipedia.

Go

programming languages

Origin: 2009

If you haven’t heard of this programming language, you should have. Simply because it was developed by Google. The language is Open Sourced and is sort of a combination of C++ and Python. It announced in a blog post –

Go attempts to combine the development speed of working in a dynamic language like Python with the performance and safety of a compiled language like C or C++. In our experiments with Go to date, typical builds feel instantaneous; even large binaries compile in just a few seconds. And the compiled code runs close to the speed of C. Go is designed to let you move fast.

Read more on Golang.

The above ten programming languages are a mix of the esoteric and the still usable. There are a few thousand programming languages around for everything imaginable – from one that looks like Morse code to Lisp which is the second-oldest high-level programming language still used today. Have you heard of the ten on this list? Which is the strangest programming language you know of?

Image Credit: Programming via Shutterstock || orangutan via Shutterstock

  1. tzy
    January 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    please clarify or rectify the inconsistency :
    Brainf**k section {creator : Urban Müller }
    Piet section { creator : David Morgan-Mar}
    Ook! section { creator : DavidMorgan-Mar;
    also creator of Brainf**k => common structure}
    --could research this further, but have exhausted myself
    with the mere observation! Much like Rantanplan...
    Liked the post a lot, by the way!

  2. Alexis
    August 6, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Cool. I didn't know this kind of programming exist.

    Thanks for the info.

    http://www.MyProds.com

  3. Jyotsna Narayan
    August 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    srsly.....nvr hrd of dem..

  4. Arda Ar?n
    August 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    brainf**k TRUE

  5. Ashwin Ramesh
    August 5, 2012 at 3:57 am

    Haha.. Ook! Never heard of that! Nice article :)

  6. tarzan2001
    August 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Has anyone actually made anything useful using any of these languages?? :D

    • Saikat Basu
      August 5, 2012 at 6:00 am

      Most of these are esoteric languages, that means they are more concept languages rather than practical ones. Though, the Go Programming Language is not an esoteric one and is widely used by the Android community.

  7. Mark Thornley
    August 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Wow, I still remember Pascal and basic ;)

  8. Minekokami
    August 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    My favorites are Go, Whitespace & Piet, particularly Piet. Coding by rearranging blocks... I wonder what brain changes that may bring about.

  9. Ashwin Divakaran
    August 4, 2012 at 10:31 am

    whoa I never heard of these ... who knows maybe there a lots around only we are not knowing it

  10. ACZ
    August 4, 2012 at 3:33 am

    hello one should not omit APL (A Programming Language) which was invented by a brilliant mathematician named Ken Iverson at IBM in the 1960s. I was using APL daily for most programming tasks until at least 1980.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

      As I wrote in an earlier comment, my impression was that APL is still very own. Here's my earlier observation from above:

      It is comparatively well known and is widely used by mathematicians, CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture), animation (Tron), logistics (Operation Dessert Storm) and more. In fact, there is a worldwide APL contest too.

  11. LeviTashun
    August 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Velato is pretty cool.

    Likewise, I wanna try writing a song in midi/Velato, and then attempting to run the code! Probably wouldn't do anything :P

  12. Alex Livingstone
    August 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    LOL what the hell

  13. Jon Smith
    August 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    strange but if it works, it works

  14. Rishabh Sharma
    August 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Haha, lolz

  15. Timothy Liem
    August 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I like the concept of Shakespeare and Velato, but have no idea how to write just plain "Hello World!" programs on them.

  16. Steven Kim
    August 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Damn!! n i thought i had seen most of them :)

  17. james
    August 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I had heard of BrainF**K whitespace and Inform before but had not heard of Shakespeare or go. Shakespeare reminds my of Yoda a bit.

  18. Muhannad Agha
    August 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    lol @ brainfuq

  19. Hojo_Wisconsin
    August 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I've used 1 out of the 10, not bad for obscure languages

  20. Henry Ward
    August 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Wacky! Thanks for this. :)

  21. Anandu B Ajith
    August 1, 2012 at 9:47 am

    How many programming languages

  22. Mitesh Budhabhatti
    August 1, 2012 at 8:20 am

    People have time to build such weird languages !!! But Go is not weird I think. Is google really serious about Go ??

  23. Ellen Odza
    July 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    These are really weird... but very cool!

  24. Harron Subhani
    July 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    everything that comes up with c and c++ its ok so go is here at the top.

  25. Evan Spangler
    July 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Nice as a novelty item, but not useable otherwise. Some are neat, like GO, but Brainf**k and others (i.e. whitespace) are not useful.

  26. Shehan Nirmal
    July 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I've never heard of any of these languages...

  27. Juan Paulo Ducut
    July 31, 2012 at 9:19 am

    well, I wanna play with brainfsck. what could go wrong?

  28. Ravuama
    July 31, 2012 at 7:54 am

    just reading this article giving me a head ache.

  29. Nguyen Tran
    July 31, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Right, never heard before. It's so cool

  30. Jörg Plate
    July 31, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I know nearly all of them, but programming languages are kinda my hobby. But
    only Go is the one I have actually experience with :)

    Where is INTERCAL? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INTERCAL

    • Saikat Basu
      July 31, 2012 at 4:43 am

      Ah..the problem with lists. You have to leave some out, sometimes without a reason.

      • Jörg Plate
        July 31, 2012 at 5:12 am

        Any list of strange and weird programming languages has to have INTERCAL to be credible :)

  31. ferdinan Sitohang
    July 31, 2012 at 2:17 am

    All, I never heard of it. Velato looks cool.. thanks in advance

  32. Joe Johaneman
    July 31, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I've heard of 4 of these, and am currently learning Go!

  33. Joe Johaneman
    July 31, 2012 at 1:24 am

    I've heard of 4 of them, and am currently learning Go. :-)

  34. Igor Rizvi?
    July 31, 2012 at 12:25 am

    I have to admit i havent heard of a single programming language until now

  35. Vanja Gorgiev
    July 30, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    im amazed by this, i had no idea that programming can be done by colors and stuff... just amazing

  36. HildyJ
    July 30, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    You really need to include APL (A Programming Language), an array oriented language using symbols rather than words. It is the most compact language I have ever come across. I don't know how it will display, but here is the entire program for Conway's game of life:

    life?{?1 ??.?3 4=+/,¯1 0 1?.?¯1 0 1?.???}

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APL_%28programming_language%29

    • Saikat Basu
      July 31, 2012 at 4:47 am

      Really was in two minds about APL. But it is comparatively well known and is widely used by mathematicians, CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture), animation (Tron), logistics (Operation Dessert Storm) and more. In fact, there is a worldwide APL contest too.

  37. Tyson King
    July 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I know a bit about Piet (also have heard about Whitespace). So I'm happy to be a bit more aware than many others. :)

  38. Emmanuel
    July 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    This was no surprise to me as I know half of the languages listed especially GO.

    I'm always on top of everything from legacy to the latest technologies.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 31, 2012 at 3:21 am

      Well. you didn't know the other half :)

  39. Andrew Scott
    July 30, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    "Go" is very popular among android developers

    • Saikat Basu
      July 31, 2012 at 3:21 am

      It is designed to be fast, so I guess it should be. Then it is Google.

  40. Lee
    July 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    The language I started out with was Liberty BASIC (actually, Just BASIC, which is the free version of Liberty BASIC). It has syntax kind of similar to QBASIC, although you can make GUI's and such. It's a really easy language to pick up (assuming you have no programming background) but looking back at it after learning languages like C++, it's very simple and somewhat limited.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 31, 2012 at 3:20 am

      It could be just the thing for getting children interested in programming I suppose. I also started out with BASIC in fact, then went on to COBOL and C.

  41. Ilya Svyatko
    July 30, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Cool

  42. Mike Vaz
    July 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    How about lolcode?

  43. MaxGhost
    July 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    You forgot my favourite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOLCODE

  44. Adjei Kofi
    July 30, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Wow. This is cool. I'm not a fan of Shakespeare but I'll definitely "try" checking it out. And Golang? Google always has something up their sleeves.

  45. kevin gnanaraj
    July 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Some of these are real bizarre...like brainf**k and Ook!, but some are pretty cool, if not hard to understand, such as velato and Piet. It's amazing how different things can be used for programming-I had no idea you could use colours or MIDI files for code, it's insane.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      It is a huge huge list actually. Esoteric programming languages itself is a large section of programming languages.

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