The Waffle Generator writes as much boring prose as you want.
The Waffle generator was written in the mid 1980s. Originally, it was written for a primitive C compiler to run on CP/M. In its’ first incarnation, it accompanied an article on programming for a specialist magazine aimed at users of the Amstrad CP/M machine affectionately known by its users as ‘The Microwave’. Since then, the program has taken on a life of its own, and is irrepressibly popular, unlike the vast majority of the code we write.
At MML, we had recently written a book to accompany the release of this machine (The Amstrad CP/M Plus). Amstrad delayed the launch of the book for reasons now lost in the mists of time, and we felt that the moment for a worthwhile release was slipping away. We at MML Systems therefore published it ourselves. As luck had it, it was a runaway success, and held the record for a while as the second-most-popular computer book ever. For some time, we continued to write about programming for the huge number of people now entering the world of computers, and I continue to meet people in the industry, some very eminent now, who cut their teeth on programming with our books and articles.
The Waffle Generator refuses to die. Because it produces reams and reams of text which, on first glance, looks like real turgid prose, it has been used, translated, developed and exploited by a generation of IT people. The singular peak of achievement was when the output of the Waffle Generator was submitted by a prankster to the Journal of Theoretical Psycholinguistic, was praised by two independent referees and published. I still have the article. As a tribute, some phrases from this exercise are enshrined in the word-bank.
For a long time, BT at Martlesham Heath used the waffle generator to test comms lines, and we’ve had thankyou letters from desperate PHd students who bulked up their Thesis with this handy tool. It has been translated to Java, Transact SQL, C++ and a variety of other languages.
We chose this as a programming example because it is so simple, and because it shows how it is best to mimic the way we construct language when producing language automata. It displays a simple and valid use of recursion. Above all, it is fun to use. Obviously, the serious user will bring his own word and phrase-banks to bear on it. We developed our own by noting down the ridiculous phrase used in meetings during our life as IT consultants, and incorporating them into the collection. We have also taken a great deal of inspiration from the book ‘Education through Art’ by Herbert Read, one of the most turgid books we've ever come across.
At MML, we currently use a PHP version to test out CSS Stylesheets. The output is in strict ‘core’ HTML, and we use it to check that our Stylesheets work with unpredictable sizes of text. From this website, we offer a running version which will provide you a most satisfying stream of HTML bunkum, and the PHP source, in Zipped format, which you are welcome to use.
We’d love to hear from you if you use it. We had a C++ version on the side for years, and never heard from anyone. We thought the world had grown tired of such an old application but we were recently surprised to find that people were still using it. If you construct new and interesting word-banks, it would be great to get them into the source.