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Cleaning out some old boxes of papers, I came across one of those humor bits that circulate in any profession. Back in the day, it was usually by fax. Then it was email, and now Tweets and other social platforms. (The song remains the same.)

This one concerned “rare” (i.e. made up) languages loosely based on existing languages. The humor depends, mostly, on recognizing parodied languages and certain other topical references (like “Valley Girls”).

In other words, a lot of the funny has sailed, but I found parts of it cute enough to record here…

It’s called (unfunny parts have been elided):

Languages Not Included In the Commercial Language SIG or the Languages and Tools SIG.

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 general, the language required more C- statements than machine code instructions to execute a given task. In this respect it is very similar to COBOL.

[Ed. Obviously a parody of C++ and both this and the real name are actually errors! The post-operator means taking the value of ‘C’ and then incrementing it. Effectively that suggests that C and C++ are the same language. That’s always bugged me. Stroustrup should have named it ++C!]

FIFTH [Ed. The programming language Forth turned into a booze joke. Not much connection to the Forth language other than taking off on the name, but that part is kinda cute.]

LAIDBACK [Ed. Another mostly name-based gag with the Marin County hippie sensibility thrown in. The cute bit is…]

Many mourn the demise of LAIDBACK because of its reputation as a gentle and non-threatening language, since all error messages are in lower case. For example, LAIDBACK responded to syntax errors with the message: “i hate to bother you, but i just can’t relate to that. can you find the time to try again?”

LITHP [Ed. An unfortunate attempt at an obvious gay joke. It was this item that kinda turned me off to the list (especially when Lisp is a favorite language of mine). That and that a bunch of them weren’t funny, even back in the day.]

RENE Named after the famous French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes. RENE is a language used for artificial intelligence. […]

The center is very pleased with progress to date. They say they have almost succeeded in getting a VAX to think. However, sources inside the organization say that each time the machine fails to think it ceases to exist.

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

[Ed. In the original, the language is spelled SATRE. Not sure if that’s a typo or intentional. Given other typos, I’m guessing typo and correcting it.]

SIMPLE SIMPLE is the acronym for Sheer Idiot’s Mono-purpose Programming Linguistic Environment. The language, developed at 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.

[Ed. Obviously a parody of BASIC: Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. As with many other items on the list, the best part is the name parody!]

SLOBOL [Ed. A “slow language” joke based on the name of the SNOBOL language. Again, no real connection to the SNOBOL language, which is why this is kind of a weak effort.]

[Ed. The final entry is dated but cute. The name keys off the ancient language ALGOL. The humor, as with LAIDBACK above, is local (to California) and as dated as a valley girl. Heh. In either sense of the word “dated”.]

VALGOL 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, AX and NOWAY. Repetitions of code are handled in FOR-SURE loops.

Here is a sample program:

    FOR LIKE 1 to OH*MAYBE 100
        DO*WAH - (DITTY**2)
    I*M 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!!

Original by Doug Bohrer, Bohrer and Company, Near Chicago, and Ted A. Bear, NCA Corporation, Silicon Valley. Date unknown, but likely the 1970s.