INTERCAL, short for “Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym,” is a parody programming language developed in 1972 by Don Woods and James Lyon. Designed as a humorous critique of other programming languages of the time, INTERCAL deliberately defies conventional programming constructs and logic. Its syntax is intentionally confusing and esoteric, making it challenging to create and understand functional code.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “INTERCAL” is: /ˈɪntərˌkæl/.

Key Takeaways

  1. INTERCAL, short for “Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym,” is a unique esoteric programming language that was created in 1972, specifically designed to be confusing and difficult to learn.
  2. The syntax of INTERCAL is intentionally obfuscated and counter-intuitive, featuring statement modifiers, flow control elements, operators, and input/output methods that are drastically different from traditional programming languages.
  3. INTERCAL is often used as a humorous and recreational language, and its code is frequently shared as a source of amusement and challenge within the programming community, due to its bizarre and convoluted nature.


INTERCAL, which stands for “Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym,” is a unique and esoteric programming language created in 1972 by Don Woods and James M. Lyon.

It is important in the history of technology as a satirical language that highlights the complexity and quirks of traditional programming languages. By providing a humorous take on programming, INTERCAL emphasizes the need for simplicity, readability, and user-friendliness in coding.

Furthermore, its creation and enduring usage reflect the creativity and adaptability of programmers, who enjoy challenging themselves and pushing the boundaries of their craft. Overall, INTERCAL serves as a testament to the computing field’s rich culture and inventive spirit.


INTERCAL, an unconventional programming language created in 1972 by Don Woods and James M. Lyon as a parody, serves to provide an entertaining and whimsical approach to programming. It stands for “Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym” and demonstrates the humorous nature of the language itself.

The purpose of INTERCAL is not to be a practical or efficient option for software development, but rather to challenge programmers in order to think in a different way and foster creativity in the programming community. INTERCAL achieves this goal by employing unique syntax and structures, which defy conventional programming constructs and practice, often requiring complex and sometimes counterintuitive solutions to achieve relatively simple outcomes. Despite its light-hearted origins, INTERCAL has attracted a small but devoted following of programmers eager to explore the language’s quirkiness.

Its unconventional features are often used for the creation of programs such as esoteric algorithms, obfuscated code, and complex problem-solving tasks. While it would be unlikely for an organization or individual to rely on INTERCAL for mission-critical applications, its usage serves as a critical reminder on the importance of keeping the spirit of curiosity and intellectual challenge alive within the Software Development and Computer Science communities. By pushing the boundaries of traditional programming, INTERCAL provides a much-needed break from the typical programming languages and cultivates unique programming skills and lateral thinking among its practitioners.

Examples of INTERCAL

INTERCAL, also known as The Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym, is an esoteric programming language created in 1972 by Don Woods and James M. Lyon. Its primary purpose was to create a parody of programming languages at the time, and it is intentionally designed to be difficult to use and understand. Since it is not designed for practical purposes, real-world applications are rare, if not nearly nonexistent. However, below are three examples related to INTERCAL that showcase its unique nature and impact on the programming world:Educational and Inspirational Role: INTERCAL has been used as an example of how programming languages can be made difficult to use. It has inspired other esoteric languages, such as Brainfuck and Malbolge, and is occasionally used to teach developers about programming paradigms and the importance of readability and simplicity in language design.

99 Bottles of Beer: A classic example of programming exercises, the “99 Bottles of Beer” problem, has been solved using INTERCAL. While not a real-world application, this showcases INTERCAL’s ability to be used for standard programming tasks, albeit in a highly convoluted and difficult-to-understand manner. The INTERCAL code for this exercise can be found at:

C-INTERCAL Compiler: The C-INTERCAL compiler, or “C-INTERCAL Revision0”, is a Unix-based INTERCAL-to-C converter, which allows the user to compile INTERCAL code into C. This further allows the code to be compiled on a variety of platforms and machines, indirectly demonstrating the adaptability of the INTERCAL insanity and humor even in modern computer systems.While technically not having any practical real-world applications, INTERCAL’s legacy lies in its ability to mock conventional programming languages and guide developers towards better-designed, more readable, and accessible languages.



INTERCAL is a parody programming language created in 1972 by Don Woods and James M. Lyon. The name is an abbreviation for “Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym”. Its main purpose is to make fun of the complexities found in other programming languages, and it is intentionally designed to be confusing and difficult to learn.

What are the key features of INTERCAL?

INTERCAL has several unconventional and intentionally obfuscated features, such as unusual operators, a unique control flow, multiple data types with obscure names, and the requirement to use specific interjections to prevent syntax errors. These features make INTERCAL a challenging and frustrating language to work with, but they also contribute to its humor and charm.

How do I compile and run INTERCAL programs?

To compile and run INTERCAL programs, you need a dedicated INTERCAL compiler such as C-INTERCAL, CLC-INTERCAL, or ick. These compilers can be found online and are typically available for multiple platforms. After installing the compiler, you can compile your INTERCAL source code into an executable file, which can then be run from the command line or terminal.

Why was INTERCAL created?

INTERCAL was created as a satirical commentary on the growing complexity of programming languages at the time. Don Woods and James M. Lyon wanted to poke fun at the quirks and arbitrary restrictions found in popular languages by creating a language that took these ideas to absurd extremes. INTERCAL serves as both a lighthearted joke and a reminder of the importance of simplicity and usability in programming language design.

Is INTERCAL still used today?

While INTERCAL is not used for any serious programming tasks, it remains a popular language among enthusiasts who enjoy its peculiarities and the challenge of writing functional code in such a complex and unintuitive language. There are still occasional updates and ports to new platforms, and INTERCAL has inspired other joke languages like Brainfuck, Malbolge, and Cow.

Related Technology Terms

  • Esoteric programming language
  • Compiler language with no pronounceable acronym
  • Created by Don Woods and James M. Lyon
  • Parody language
  • Self-modifying code

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