Interview with Don Woods

Before brainfuck and Befunge, there was INTERCAL. Its revival in 1990 by ESR may mark the beginning of the esolang movement, but the language dates back to 1972, when it was created in a famous late-night session at Princeton by Don Woods and Jim Lyon. The original version INTERCAL (sometimes called INTERCAL 72) is a rich parody with a more chaotic sense of play than its later revivals. Its instructions are deliberately vague and embrace an almost-believable hacker jargon, collected in a straight-faced, well-organized manual. Don Woods not only co-created INTERCAL, but is also noted for Colossal Cave Adventure, and the original version of the Hacker Dictionary: three essential cultural objects of geek culture.

At the bottom of the interview are links to more Woods/INTERCAL resources.

» Part of INTERCAL's charm is its jargon and syntax. For instance, the renaming of punctuation like rabbit ears for " and embrace and bracelet for { and }. While INTERCAL lore puts its creation in a single evening, did it grow out of existing in-jokes with Jim Lyon or others? Where did the impulse to rename things come from, and what did it feel like to create a language with this new set of vocabulary? Do you ever find yourself using INTERCAL jargon?

Read More

This entry originally appeared at, and may be a summary or abridged version.