signed char lotte

In 1990 Brian Westley wrote one of the most beautiful computer programs I’ve ever seen. It was submitted as an entry to the International Obfuscated C Code Contest and won the “best layout” award.

I remember that I first saw this in an IRC trivia channel around the turn of the millennium when I was just starting out with programming. It always makes me happy whenever I rediscover it.

Its reads as messages back and forth between two ex-lovers, Charlie and Charlotte. The output generated when you run it still blows my fucking mind. I’ve included it at the bottom of this page.

Here’s the code, which reads almost as English, with newlines removed for brevity:

char*lie;
	double time, me= !0XFACE,
	not; int rested,   get, out;
	main(ly, die) char ly, **die ;{
	    signed char lotte,

dear; (char)lotte--;
	for(get= !me;; not){
	1 -  out & out ;lie;{
	char lotte, my= dear,
	**let= !!me *!not+ ++die;
	    (char*)(lie=

"The gloves are OFF this time, I detest you, snot\n\0sed GEEK!");
	do {not= *lie++ & 0xF00L* !me;
	#define love (char*)lie -
	love 1s *!(not= atoi(let
	[get -me?
	    (char)lotte-

(char)lotte: my- *love -
	'I'  -  *love -  'U' -
	'I'  -  (long)  - 4 - 'U' ])- !!
	(time  =out=  'a'));} while( my - dear
	&& 'I'-1l  -get-  'a'); break;}}
	    (char)*lie++;

(char)*lie++, (char)*lie++; hell:0, (char)*lie;
	get *out* (short)ly   -0-'R'-  get- 'a'^rested;
	do {auto*eroticism,
	that; puts(*( out
	    - 'c'

-('P'-'S') +die+ -2 ));}while(!"you're at it");

for (*((char*)&lotte)^=
	(char)lotte; (love ly) [(char)++lotte+
	!!0xBABE];){ if ('I' -lie[ 2 +(char)lotte]){ 'I'-1l ***die; }
	else{ if ('I' * get *out* ('I'-1l **die[ 2 ])) *((char*)&lotte) -=
	'4' - ('I'-1l); not; for(get=!

get; !out; (char)*lie  &  0xD0- !not) return!!
	(char)lotte;}

(char)lotte;
	do{ not* putchar(lie [out
	*!not* !!me +(char)lotte]);
	not; for(;!'a';);}while(
	    love (char*)lie);{

register this; switch( (char)lie
	[(char)lotte] -1s *!out) {
	char*les, get= 0xFF, my; case' ':
	*((char*)&lotte) += 15; !not +(char)*lie*'s';
	this +1s+ not; default: 0xF +(char*)lie;}}}
	get - !out;
	if (not--)
	goto hell;
	    exit( (char)lotte);}

When you run it, giving it a number, it outputs:

$ ./charlotte 4

./charlotte
loves me
./charlotte
loves me, not
./charlotte
loves me
./charlotte
loves me, not

A more in-depth look at the code and its execution can be found at https://nickdrozd.github.io/2021/03/30/signed-char-lotte.html.

The original code is hosted at https://www.ioccc.org/1990/westley.c.