in reply to Re^2: Critique of Where Perl 6 is Heading on Freshmeat.net
in thread Critique of Where Perl 6 is Heading on Freshmeat.net
But don't dismiss it just because I wrote it.
I'm more likely to dismiss it because I lived through the Perl 4 to Perl 5 transition. There were a lot of the same fears expressed then about the continuity of Perl, and the "unnecessary" new features and broken syntax in the new version.
The leap from Perl 4 to Perl 5 was a long one, in time, space and imagination. I was at the LISA conference where Tom and Larry gave a series of talks on the upcoming Perl 5 language. Without having the need to actually write code with the new syntax, I found it difficult to comprehend what the heck they were talking about in those seminars. I came away feeling fairly uneasy about the direction that Perl, one of the primary tools in my sysadmin kit, was taking.
It turns out, in hindsight, that I had little to worry about. Perl 4 didn't vanish when Perl 5 hit the streets. My "pink camel" kept getting more and more frayed, while my "blue camel" stayed fairly pristine. Gradually, I cracked the latter to look up this or that new concept, in my spare time. Finally, I took the plunge on an object oriented module or two. By that time, Perl 5 code was really taking off with CPAN, and I just couldn't ignore the wealth of code in my day-to-day work. So I finished the transition from Perl 4 to Perl 5. I can't say that it was painless, but at least I wasn't forced through it on someone else's schedule. And when I finally made the jump, it was so I could get something in return: use of all that free code.
In your article, you acknowledge the similarity in the two transitions. You attempt to differentiate the two by stating that the redesign of Perl 4 was justified because it ".. would make Perl more up-to-par with the powerful languages of then and now .." This is correct, but you draw the wrong conclusion with respect to Perl today. Computer language theory and practise have come a long way in the 10 or so years since Perl 5 was released. The radical nature of the changes Larry is proposing for Perl 6 reflects this progress. At the time Perl 5 was discussed at LISA, I had no clue what OO programming was for, so I couldn't understand, let alone see the benefit of object oriented extensions to Perl. By the time I took up OO Perl 5, I had learned Java, which gave me more of a clue in that regard. Most of us are in the same boat with respect to the many new features of Perl 6. Though I can't be certain, I suspect I will feel the same way about some of those features, once I've learned them, as I did about Perl 5 objects. The point is, I can't predict which of those unfamiliar features will fit the bill in the future. Neither could I do so with the then unfamilar features of Perl 5.
You also say that ".. the Perl "market" of programmers that can learn it is much more saturated today than it was when Perl 4 started." To the extent that this argument isn't irrelevant, it tends to support the idea that the Perl 5 to Perl 6 transition will be smooth and slow. The more source code written in Perl 5, the longer that language will live on. In other words, relax. Perl 5 isn't going anywhere.
"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers