Sideband #41: CS Jokes

I close the first round of CS101 articles with some of my very favorite CS jokes. Sure, they’re esoteric, but they’re also really funny. Thing is, you may have to trust me on that.


I have a sign in my cube:

There are 10 types of people…
Those who can count in binary,
and those who can’t!

It garners two reactions. Some people just walk away puzzled. Some people look puzzled for just a moment and then they crack up.

It’s a joke that works if you know binary. Then it’s pretty funny, but if you don’t, you won’t and I’m not sure explaining it can make it funny. You may finally understand it, but I’m not sure it’ll be funny.

At least I don’t think it will. Let’s try.

Short and sweet, 10 is the binary number for 2. In binary, the two-digit number one-zero is not “ten” (meaning ten), but “one-zero” (meaning two). In any base, the number “10” has the same value as the base. In octal (base 8), the number “10” means eight. In hexadecimal (base 16), “10” means 16!

So the sign is really one of those “two types of people” jokes, but you have to be one of the types of people mentioned to get the joke. I like it because it’s self-referential; the joke is the thing it’s joking about.

So… funny?


There’s an even more esoteric joke I thought was hysterical the first time I saw it. Finding this one funny requires knowing three certain computer languages…

Lou: “Did you hear they invented an object-oriented version of COBOL?”
Bud: “Oh, yeah? What’s it called?”

Trust me, it’s hysterical if you know C++ and COBOL. They may both start with ‘C’ (in fact one of them starts with ‘C’ in two senses), but they’re nothing, and I mean nothing, alike.

Explaining this one would be tough, and I’m not sure there’s any payoff. You’d need to know a bit about the C language and its object-oriented version, C++ (C plus plus), and you’d need to have some feel for another language, COBOL.

There is, by the way, a wry observation about the C and C++ languages that hinges on the hidden reference part of the COBOL joke. Specifically it has to do with what C++ really means and what that suggests about the values of C and C++ compared to each other.


My all time favorites are a pair of Unix jokes:

Unix is user-friendly… it’s just picky about its friends.
How’s my programming? Call 1-800-DEV-NULL

(That first one is a nice mini-tutorial on it’s and its!)

So there ya go; some really esoteric computer programmer jokes!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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