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Language version 1.0

The Jolverine language was devised as a conscious attempt to expand the genre of turning tarpit by adding the feature of modifying the instruction wheel during execution. It is not dissimilar to Wunnel, and was influenced slightly by Half-Broken Car in Heavy Traffic.

The name is a portmanteau of "jolly wolverine" (where "jolly" is a euphemism for "drunk",) which is an attempt to capture, in a noun phrase, the language's vicious, erratic nature.

Program Structure

A Jolverine program consists of a two-dimensional grid of symbols. An instruction pointer (IP) traverses the grid, starting in the upper-left corner (x=0, y=0) travelling right (dx=1, dy=0). dx and dy have only three possible values, -1, 0, and 1, like values on the tape (see below.)


On each tick, if the symbol under the IP is a *, the current instruction on the instruction wheel is executed. The instruction wheel is then advanced to the next instruction, regardless of what the symbols under the IP contains. (All symbols that are not * have the same meaning, that is to say, no meaning besides taking up space.) The IP is then advanced to the next position in the playfield, and the next tick begins. Execution halts when the IP travels beyond the extent of the playfield (i.e. when it can be proved that, in its direction of travel, it will never again hit a *.)


There is an unbounded tape, with a single head which can be moved left and right. Each cell on the tape may contain one of the three values -1, 0, or 1. Initially, all tape cells contain 0. Addition and subtraction of these values is modulo 3, with the result considered to be in the range {-1, 0, 1}. Incrementing 1 yields -1 and decrementing -1 yields 1.

Instruction Wheel

The instruction wheel contains seven instructions. Initially, the wheel looks like this:

left <--

The arrow indicates the current instruction on the wheel. Each time the wheel is advanced, the arrow moves down one row, wrapping around back to the top once it advances past the bottom of the wheel.

Each time an instruction is executed from the wheel, it is removed from the wheel and re-inserted at a different position. The first time this happens, it is re-inserted at the top of the wheel; the second time, it is re-inserted at the bottom; the third time, at the top again; the fourth time, at the bottom again; and so forth.



It is entirely possible for * to execute adddx or adddy with the result of both dx and dy being zero. In this case, execution does not halt, but the same * will be executed again, and again, until dx or dy changes.

Jolverine is a reversible language, although that was not at all on the author's mind when it was created.

Computational Class

Jolverine was shown to be Turing-complete by Ørjan Johansen, shortly after version 1.0 was released. You can read the full details of the construction (which involves some rather large Jolverine programs) in the Jolverine Turing-completeness proof article on the esolangs wiki.


While I have yet to write a proper loop in Jolverine, others have succeeded at this. Some programming techniques that may come in useful for writing Jolverine programs include:

About this Distribution

This is the reference distribution for Jolverine, and as such, it contains the reference implementation of Jolverine, written in Python, in the file script/jolverine.

This implementation also handles a very simplistic variant of Jolverine which I call "Jolverine Super Wimp Mode". This variant is not supposed to be a real language, so much as an aid to writing Jolverine programs -- you prototype them in Jolverine Super Wimp Mode first, then you figure out how to convert them to Jolverine. In Jolverine Super Wimp Mode, there is no wheel at all, and the characters <, >, +, x, y, i, and o execute the seven above-listed instructions directly.

There are some example program in the eg directory; those with the file extension .jol are in Jolverine, while those with the extension .jolswm are in Jolverine Super Wimp Mode.

Happy wheel-mangling!
Chris Pressey
September 11, 2012
Montréal, Québec