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Postings from May 2001
RE: Perl, the new generation
From: David Grove
May 16, 2001 13:52
RE: Perl, the new generation
Message ID: BMEOIGKGMBHCLHHNLNABEEENCBAA.email@example.com
> On Wed, 16 May 2001, David Grove wrote:
> > For me, it's the bare minimum amount of Perl you must *use* to
> be productive
> > that I see increasing in our plans and discussions. I'm afraid of Perl
> > turning into a verbose monstrosity to please verbosity addicts
> of languages
> > whose only point of advocacy is Perl FUD. Once quick and dirty
> dies, Perl
> > dies.
> Several thoughts for you, David. All of these should be taken
> from the perspective of someone who cut his teeth on 5.x and has never had
> to deal with the (joys|differences|horrors) of 4.x.
I'll assume you're talking about yourself...
Otherwise, you assume too much.
> 1) I agree that Perl is a big language and it's hard to hold it in
> your head. I frequently find that some bit of it that I haven't used in a
> while has fallen out and I need to go read up on it again.
Same comment as above, given its context.
But then, everybody's brain leaks at some point.
> 2) Respectfully, I don't think that we can accurately say that the
> minimum amount of Perl needed in order to be productive is increasing; we
> haven't finished defining P6 yet, so how can we know this?
We can see the trends from the PDD's/RFC's, watch the momenta of our
comments, draw one or more straight lines to possible endpoints, and choose
the most likely endpoints, or the most frightening. I have seen several
comments about dropping some of the assumptions that Perl currently makes to
take effort out of programming. One of the most beautiful features of Perl
is that set of assumptions that stands between the programmer and a core
dump. If those assumptions become accessible using methods on base classes,
without the current assumption as the default, we may end up with a prettier
language, and perhaps even one easier for us to program the guts of, but we
lose part of our grip on what sets Perl apart from other languages.
> 3) You have every right to be afraid of anything you want to be
> afraid of, and to express your concerns about it. However, the way that
> you chose to do that ("Once quick and dirty dies, Perl dies.") implies
> that the only thing that Perl is good for is q-n-d, and this is simply not
> the case. I have written enterprise-quality code, for large systems, in
> Perl, and I will absolutely defend Perl's ability on that playing
I imply nothing of the sort, and this is plain silly. I also create and
maintain large applications in Perl.
However, when I do need quick and dirty, nothing matches Perl. In the same
way, when I need CGI, nothing matches Perl. In the same way, when I need
text processing without verbosity, nothing matches Perl. And so forth and so
Tcl can do CGI. It's not as comfortable, but it's possible.
Python can do text processing. Of course they have to steal the perl regex
capabilities (and then turn around and bash us to promote their own
aberration), but it's possible.
In fact, anything that Perl can do, I can do in other languages, from
Assembler all the way to C#. However, ONLY Perl does quick and dirty. If we
screw that up with verbosity and the lack of sensible assumptions, and
require operators on basic types that at one point did sensibly default
things, you lose quick and dirty, and may as well program in anything else.
I'm not aware of anything else that so strongly sets Perl apart anymore,
with so many copycat languages around, though there may be things outside my
current attention span.
And I must remind you again, we are on chapter 2 of Camel III (which itself
is an unfinished mess) and have a loooooong way to go.
> 4) While your concern is well taken, I think you are doing
> yourself a disservice by using such inflammatory language...it makes me
> (and probably others) focus more on your tone than on your point.
Only when it is the purpose of some to discredit the point by jumping on the
tone, when the point is valid and a standpoint of defense must be
maintained. It's a very childish way of getting out of the responsibility of
answering for one's actions or ommissions. "Mommy, petey didn't say his
prayers tonight." "Yeah, well you're just a tattletale and are going to
Hell." Correcting one another's grammar and engaging in semantic games
rather than answering the question is a foolish way to accomplish a mutual
Some months ago, the phrase "If you want to act like that, take it back to
the P5P" came alive. I believe it applies here as well.
There is a great deal to watch out for right now, and unless we are
vigilant, those things will fall upon us. If words of vigilance are quieted
by tones of false complacency, it is at that point that a writer does harm.
David T. Grove
Blue Square Group