Malbolge, the programming language, was named after the eighth circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno when it was created in 1998 by Ben Olmstead. The language was designed specifically to be impossible to program with. It has been relinquished to the public domain by its creator, who also created Dis.
The esoteric language made a cameo appearance the other day on CBS’ TV show, Elementary. A modern day telling of Sherlock Holmes, the episode titled The Leviathan used Malbolge as a particular plot device.
Elementary episode The Leviathan description:
Sherlock is called in to investigate when a supposedly uncrackable bank vault called “The Leviathan” is breached. Meanwhile, Joan is pleasantly surprised when Sherlock meets her family and defends her choice to become a sober companion.
In the episode, a jury for a previous trial was shown a slip of paper with the list for a coffee order, used to implicate the four criminals worked together. On the back of that paper was a print out of what seemed to be jibberish. (Image below screencapped from CBS streaming episode and rotated right side up.)
It actually appears to be the “Hello World” program included in Malbolge’s Wikipedia entry:
Instead of just printing out ‘Hello World’, according to the episode, this snippet of Malbolge translated to an algorithm that allowed the bank robbers to attack the (psuedo)random number generator the vault used for a 10-digit PIN code. Sherlock doesn’t know everything but had a consultant he could send the code off to, which came back with: E(n) = Q(n)/Q(E)+Q(n)
While Malbolge’s appearance was limited, it did provide the key to finding the group who robbed the second “impenetrable” vault, which not even Sherlock could break into. It was an interesting use of a tech-related plot device without screwing it up too badly as is so often done in TV.