Quines are programs that when run produce themselves as output. Previously I had written a fairly longish one in Python. I was reading Russ Cox's latest blog article (more skimming than reading actually, it's neatly subtle) but it said something obvious that I hadn't clicked on before: the
repr function takes a value, and converts it to a string value that is its representation. Most of the difficulty in making a short quine is in picking a representation which is compact. Since
repr is a builtin function, that makes it very compact. A few minutes of tinkering resulted in this two line quine:
#!/usr/bin/env python s = '#!/usr/bin/env python\ns = %s ; print s %% repr(s)' ; print s % repr(s)
It could actually be made shorter and fit on one line, but I think most good programs should specify the interpreter they use. That necessitates a second line.
Russ goes on to do something truly remarkable: a zip or tar.gz file which when unzipped produces a new copy of itself. I am gonna ponder that a bit more and maybe work on my own version.