The International Obfuscated C Code Contest
A 27th IOCCC Winner
The code for this entry can be found in prog.c
make ./prog < input.mid > output.mid
wget -O cvikl.mid 'http://www.kunstderfuge.com/-/midi.asp?file=beethoven/symphony_6_1_(c)cvikl.mid' ./prog < cvikl.mid > output.mid # Play output.mid with your favorite player wget -O entertainer.mid https://www.midiworld.com/download/3857 ./prog < entertainer.mid > output2.mid # Play output.mid with your favorite player
In an entry that boasts not using literals, one would expect to see straightforward ways to produce
small integers like
!(x^x)<<!(x^x), etc. but this entry is trickier than that. Deciphering what it does,
apart from reading stdin and writing to stdout, would take a while.
While doing that, you can be audially entertained by a sample of its output.
This program seeks to automatically “improve” standard MIDI files (.mid) by adding an extra track that provides a driving drum beat to bring some excitement into boring video-game music rips or classical music sequences that otherwise only see the light of day when modern musicians import them into FL Studio to copy a few chords.
If you’re not using Windows Media Player or already familiar with MIDI files,
you may need to install some additional software to be able to listen to them.
For example, on Ubuntu, I was able to play them in VLC after installing
You can obtain MIDIs in many places, but I mostly tested the program using
files I found here.
However, as discussed under the Limitations heading below, not all of them
work correctly. I will admit to having used
for most of my testing.
Compile the program using the following command (I tested this using both
$CC -pedantic -Wall -Werror -Wextra -O3 -o prog prog.c
The program expects a MIDI on stdin, and writes a modified MIDI to stdout:
./prog <input.mid >output.mid
If the program encounters an error, no output will generally be produced, and it will exit with a specific status code. Meanings of the various status codes are listed below, under the “Program error codes” heading. On success, the program exits with a code of 0.
The program does not support MIDI files over 4 MB (specifically, it will not take input files larger than 222 - 1 bytes). This is unlikely to be a big limitation in practice, since even lengthy MIDIs are rarely over a couple hundred KB.
Not all MIDIs set (or correctly set) their timing information, which will lead to the tempo of the drum beat not matching the track. This will be especially true for “live performance” .mid files.
There may be some types of MIDI messages that the program is unable to correctly parse, but I have rarely seen this in practice. The largest cause of program failures, in my experience, has been Limitation 2.
I had one primary goal when writing this program: include no C literals whatsoever. The final C file includes no numerical, string, or character literals. Instead, all literals have been replaced with a handful of global variables, which are occasionally modified throughout the file to prevent simple uses of find-and-replace.
So, in a sense, this obfuscation is simply an intentional use of global
variables' classic problem: absolute spaghetti code. The absence of any sort
of literals has the added benefit of forcing any would-be reader to trace the
contents of many variables starting from
main, since, without literals, very
little of the code gives any inherent visual cues as to its purpose.
I already took the liberty of running
clang-format, since it
still fits in the size limit and the formatting of the code was never intended
to be an obfuscation technique here.
MIDI files are generally divided up into one or more “tracks” that play concurrently. While it is easy to find the positions of each of these tracks in the file, figuring out the amount of time each track is supposed to play is more difficult, and requires parsing every track in its entirety. This means that generating a drum beat that covers the entire piece of music requires parsing every track (the entire file) in order to determine the longest track.
Once the program has determined the longest track in the file, it generates a new track, containing the simple 4-note percussion sequence, to match the length (in beats) of the longest-running track. It appends the new track onto the end of the file, taking care to update the file header, as well.
If the program encounters an error, it will exit with a nonzero code. The error codes can be interpreted as follows:
1: Encountered an invalid MIDI variable-length integer in the input.
2: Attempted to write an invalid MIDI variable-length integer to output. (This would be an internal error).
3: Encountered an unsupported MIDI event in the input.
4: Encountered a bad MIDI track header in the input.
5: The input MIDI file uses SMPTE time division, which isn’t supported.
6: Failed allocating a temporary buffer to hold a single copy of our “beat” messages.
7: Failed allocating a buffer to hold the new track data.
8: Failed allocating a buffer to hold the input file.
9: The input file was too large.
10: The input file’s MIDI header was incorrect (but this isn’t checked very thoroughly).
© Copyright 1984-2020,
Leo Broukhis, Simon Cooper, Landon Curt Noll
- All rights reserved