The Ecphorizer

Lesser Languages
from The Copier Circuit

Issue #45 (May 1985)

New horizons for computer buffs

Basic, Fortran, Cobol 
These programming languages are well known and (more or less) well loved throughout the computer industry. There are numerous other languages, however, that are less well known yet still have ardent devotees. In fact, these little-known languages generally have the most fanatic admirers. For those who wish to know more about these obscure languages and why they are obscure I present the following catalog.

SIMPLE SIMPLE is an acronym for Sheer Idiot's Monopurpose Programming Linguistic Environment. This language, developed at the Hanover College for Technological Misfits, was designed to make it impossible to write code with errors in it. The statements are, therefore confined to BEGIN, END, and STOP. No matter how you arrange the statements, you can't make a syntax error.

Programs written in SIMPLE do nothing useful. Thus they achieve the results of programs written in other languages without the tedious frustrating process of testing and debugging.

SLOBOL SLOBOL is best known for the speed, or lack of it, of its compiler. Although many compilers allow you to take a coffee break while they compile, SLOBOL compilers allow you to take a trip to Bolivia to pick up the coffee. Forty-three programmers are known to have died of boredom sitting at their terminals while waiting for a SLOBOL program to compile. Weary SLOBOL programmers often turn to a related (but infinitely faster) language, COCAINE.

VALGOL (With special thanks to Dan and Betsy "Moon Unit" Pfau) From its modest beginnings in southern California's San Fernando Valley, VALGOL is enjoying a dramatic surge of popularity across the industry. VALGOL commands include REALLY, LIKE, WELL and Y$KNOW. Variables are assigned with the =LIKE and =TOTALLY operators. Other operators include the "CALIFORNIA BOOLEANS", FERSURE, and NOWAY. Repetitions of code are handled in FOR-SURE loops. Here is a sample VALGOL program:

% % IF
86 DO WAH + (DITTY**2)
-17 SURE

VALGOL is characterized by its unfriendly error messages. For example, when the user makes a syntax error, the interpreter displays the message GAG ME WITH A SPOON.

Historically, VALGOL is a derivative of LAIDBACK, which was developed at the (now defunct) Marin County Center for T'ai Chi, Mellowness and Computer Programming, as an alternative to the more intense atmosphere in nearby Silicon Valley. The center was ideal for programmers who liked to soak in hot tubs while they worked. Unfortunately, few programmers could survive there for long, since the center outlawed pizza and RC Cola in favor of bean curd and Perrier. Many mourn the demise of LAIDBACK because of its reputation as a gentle and nonthreatening language. For Example, LAIDBACK responded to syntax errors with the message, SORRY MAN, I CAN'T DEAL WITH THAT.

SARTRE Named after the late existential philosopher. SARTRE is an extremely unstructured language. Statements in SARTRE have no purpose; they just are there. Thus, SARTRE programs are left to define their own functions. SARTRE programmers tend to be boring and depressed and are no fun at parties.

FIFTH FIFTH is a precIsion mathematical language in which the data types refer to quantity. The data types range from CC, OUNCE, SHOT, and JIGGER to FIFTH (hence the name of the language), LITER, MAGNUM, and BLOTTO. Commands refer to ingredients such as CHABLIS, CHARDONNAY, CABERNET, GIN, VERMOUTH, VODKA, SCOTCH and WHATEVERSAROUND. The many versions of the FIFTH language reflect the sophistication and financial status of its users. Commands in the ELITE dialect include VSOP and LAFITTE, while commands in the GUTTER dialect include HOOTCH and RIPPLE. The latter is a favorite of frustrated FORTH programmers who end up using the language.

C This language was named for the grade received by its creator when he submitted it as a class project in a graduate programming class. C is best described as a "Low-Level"programming language. In fact, the language generally requires more C statements than machine-code statements to execute a given task. In this respect, it is very similar to COBOL.

LITHP This otherwise unremarkable language is distinguished by the absence of an "s" in its character set. Programmers and users must substitute "TH". LITHP is said to be utheful in prothething lithtth.  

DOGO Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Obedience Training. DOGO heralds a new era of computer-literate pets. DOGO commands include SIT, STAY, HEEL and ROLL OVER. An innovative feature of DOGO is "PUppy GRAPHICS", in which a small cocker spaniel occasionally leaves a deposit as he travels across the screen.  

Today we all get those humorous bits and pieces forwarded from friends and colleagues by email. Some are funny and we forward on to others.  The rest get tossed into the round file. Before there was widespread use of email and other electronic communication, people at work would receive cartoons and funny prose through the Interofffice Mail delivery, or via the Post Office from suppliers or clients.  These would often prove to be pretty hilarious so the march was on to the office copy machine to burn copies that we'd send to others. Thus some items from the earlier age of the printed version of The Ecphorizer were sent to us in unmarked brown envelopes for consideration.  Quite often these contributions showed their age by the noticible number of dust specks that got copied from one machine to the next.  We're pleased to present some of these "Copier Circuit" items pretty much scrubbed of the dust specks.

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