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RE: Perl: Survival of the Fittest

by JanneVee (Friar)
on Jun 17, 2000 at 03:57 UTC ( #18594=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Perl: Survival of the Fittest

Actually COBOL has a place in programming. You don't hack COBOL. You hack Perl.

I see it as a Design thing(tm). I can write Perl code that almost no one can understand. As for COBOL there is almost no Obfuscated COBOL.


Comment on RE: Perl: Survival of the Fittest
RE: RE: Perl: Survival of the Fittest
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Jun 17, 2000 at 04:59 UTC
    JanneVee, with all due respect, I disagree. I have had to deal with extremely obfuscated COBOL. One company (that shall remain nameless) that supplied us with software had deliberately written the system so that copybooks contained copybooks that contained still further copybooks. Imagine trying to find a variable that was cryptically named WS-FLT-DATA (for example) that was buried several copybooks deep and then trying to figure out what it did. Hoo boy! One of their programmers privately admitted to us that this was done to guarantee that they had the support contract (though I will confess that their company gave great support).

    And then there was the program where the programmer cleverly named all of his variable after types of alcohol and had statements like

    COMPUTE MARTINI = GIN + VODKA.
    I would have given anything to get my hands around that programmer's neck.

    The point is not whether or not a language can be obfuscated (I think C is obfuscated simply by its existence), but the development time. COBOL is, generally, easy to maintain, but the development time is horrendous.

    Let's take a vote: how many Monks who have experience with both COBOL and Perl feel that there is anything they can develop faster in COBOL?

    Another point: Yes, Perl code can be obfuscated and has a steep learning curve (compared to COBOL). But consider the example that I pointed out in COBOL vs. Perl: 80 lines (after optimization, no less!) of COBOL code compared to 10 lines of Perl. Unless someone is deliberately obfuscating the Perl, 10 lines is one heck of a lot easier to debug and maintain than 80.

    I went on longer, but it cut me off. The prosecution rests. :)

      All your statements are true.

      I have a little expirience with COBOL and the conclusion I came to was. The long development times of COBOL is an effective Anti-Hack mechanism.

      The design thing(tm) in Perl is make it fast to develop. But after a hour of coding you end up with code that works and does everything that the COBOL program does(after say 4 hours of coding). Under that hour you're most likely to take the solution that first pops up. Compared to the knowledge you're going to waste alot of time if you pick the wrong one. With COBOL you plan your work different.

      And as for Buss sensetive code (if the programmer gets run over by a buss -> no one can figure out the program). You can write COBOL extremly Obfuscated. You can write Perl Obfuscated. (true statements?) . Cobol is hard to develop with!(true statement). Perl is easy to develop and deliberately obfuscate (to keep support or what ever.). All these staments lead to That if it is hard to develop it should be hard to "waste" time on deliberately obfuscate the code. The horror story of Perl, a really good Perl programmer writes code that he says it is the best code he ever written. It is about 200 lines of Perl. The guy quits and no one can figure out the script. A rewrite was nessecery and they ended up with code that was about 300 lines. He was indispensable but he didn't work much to get the code impossible to understand. It is a little more work to do the same thing in COBOL. It can be done and usually done for a reason. The perl-programmer did not intend to write the code hard to understand.

      The defense rests!

        JanneVee, I can see your point and actually gave you a ++ for it.

        In my last job, no code was permitted into production (in theory) unless a senior PA analyzed the code and declared that it fit standards -- including documentation. Now, I admit that Perl is not the easiest language to learn and can be difficult to understand if the programmer is haphazard. That's where shop standards come in. Before any code gets moved from test to production, it should be reviewed. If a particular programmer has a habit of writing obfuscated, undocumented code, that programmer gets the boot.

        That's the perfect world. The reality is, many of the newer organizations that I see shoot from the hip and standards are a nebulous dream. Documentation? What's that?

        As compared to COBOL, I will definitely concede that Perl is sometimes more difficult to maintain on a line by line basis. But, Perl programs are usually so much more compact and efficient that trying to sort through 10 lines of normal code, however dense, is much easier than following the logic of 80 lines of clear code (IMHO).

        Now that I stop to think about it, I can't think of a single significant COBOL program that I've worked on that wouldn't be at least 50% shorter in Perl, usually considerably more. I would estimate that most COBOL programs could be shrunk by 3/4 if written in Perl. That makes the logic more compact, and thus easier to control. (This is due, in part, to COBOL's poor capabilities. I've actually worked in quite a variety of languages and I cannot think of one that is as feature-poor as COBOL. If you can name any significant ones, be my guest)

        That ad hoc 3/4 smaller estimate does not count the JCL that must be added to make the COBOL work.

      Let's take a vote: how many Monks who have experience with both COBOL and Perl feel that there is anything they can develop faster in COBOL?

      A headache?

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