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INTERCAL, a programming language parody, is an esoteric programming language that was created by Don Woods and James M. Lyon, two Princeton University students, in 1972. It satirizes aspects of the various programming languages at the time,[1] as well as the proliferation of proposed language constructs and notations in the 1960s. Consequently, the humor may appear rather dated to modern readers brought up with C or Java.

According to the original manual by the authors,[2]

There are two currently maintained versions of INTERCAL: C-INTERCAL, formerly maintained by Eric S. Raymond[3], and CLC-INTERCAL, maintained by Claudio Calvelli.[4]



INTERCAL is intended to be completely different from all other computer languages. Common operations in other languages have cryptic and redundant syntax in INTERCAL. From the INTERCAL Reference Manual:[2]

DO :1 <- #0ยข#256

any sensible programmer would say that that was absurd. Since this is indeed the simplest method, the programmer would be made to look foolish in front of his boss, who would of course have happened to turn up, as bosses are wont to do. The effect would be no less devastating for the programmer having been correct.

The INTERCAL Reference Manual contains many paradoxical, nonsensical, or otherwise humorous instructions (in the manner of the game Mornington Crescent):

The manual also contains a "tonsil", as explained in this footnote: "4) Since all other reference manuals have Appendices, it was decided that the INTERCAL manual should contain some other type of removable organ."[2]

INTERCAL has many other features designed to make it even more aesthetically unpleasing to the programmer: it uses statements such as "READ OUT", "IGNORE", "FORGET", and modifiers such as "PLEASE". This last keyword provides two reasons for the program's rejection by the compiler: if "PLEASE" does not appear often enough, the program is considered insufficiently polite, and the error message says this; if too often, the program could be rejected as excessively polite. Although this feature existed in the original INTERCAL compiler, it was undocumented.[5]

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