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Turing tarpit

A Turing tarpit is a programming language designed to be Turing-complete while minimizing the number of distinct instructions. Such a language gives up practicality (such as ease of coding, performance, etc.) but is often useful in theoretical computer science.

"54. Beware of the Turing tar-pit in which everything is possible but nothing of interest is easy." --Alan Perlis, "Epigrams on Programming".

Well-known Turing tarpits include

There are two sometimes divergent ways of viewing the challenge of designing a tarpit, those which lean towards fewer instructions, and those which lean towards fewer symbols recognised. Some results of this struggle have been:

  • Thue: 1 Instruction, 128+ symbols
  • Brainfuck: 8 instructions, 8 symbols
  • OISC: 1 instruction, 11+ symbols
  • Iota/jot: 1 instruction, 2 symbols

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