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Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?

by Anonymous Monk
on Jul 27, 2005 at 21:57 UTC ( #478742=perlquestion: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??
Anonymous Monk has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

I really like Perl and enjoy working with it - don't know about other things like Ruby or Python as I haven't worked with them.

I'm at the point when my life is going to take one way or another. I'm finishing college and since there is some mambo jumbo about laws in this country (we're adjusting them to the standard EU laws and Bologna convention) so it might happen that I will pause for one year.

I all ready planed to use that time for learning German as there is a possibility of continuing my studies in Vienna if things don't work out here ... Of course I would either get a full time job or work more as a freelancer than I do now.

But I also wanted to invest time into learning Perl better - to be a real pro. That would mean (but of course never say never - nothing is definite) that I would be pointing my life into Perl's direction.

So I wanted to know what do you folks think where Perl is going to stand in next 5 or 10 years? I don't think its reasonable to ask for a longer period as who knows what will happen with computers and related fields in general. And I believe that if I choose Perl I'll stick with it as long as it makes sense ...

Comment on Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Your Mother (Canon) on Jul 27, 2005 at 22:10 UTC

    in 1998 I hadn't hardly coded since I had a TRaSh80. I saw some cool JavaScript and thought I'd pick it up for fun. It was baffling so I set it aside. I started with Perl a few months later. Last year, on a lark, I hit JavaScript again. It was a matter of a month before I'd surpassed all the JavaScript "gurus" in the office because they were all designers not programmers. I've never done anything serious with Ruby but I threw together a few little scripts on a lark one day. Didn't take more than an hour to get going with it. Same with Java.

    Moral: it doesn't matter if Perl has a future or not. Programming does and Perl's quirky ability to emulate the coding style of many languages makes it an excellent tool in the shed not just because you know Perl but because you're half-way or more to knowing a dozen other languages. I know it was easier for me to throw together a couple Java classes than it is for the average Java hacker to do the same in Perl. Maybe not an endorsement for Perl exactly but you get the idea.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Jul 27, 2005 at 22:34 UTC

    It's tough to go out on a limb and predict the future, but I think Perl's future is relatively bright. The major issue with Perl today is that however ground-breaking it once was, it's now showing its age.

    Perl 6, on the other hand, is finally becoming a reality, programmers are developing in it (well, Pugs, that is) and it is a language many of us have longed for. The language isn't out and already brentdax is building a content management system for it, there's a decent size module list and a really slick virtual machine that plays well with others. I believe Parrot, along with Perl 6, is going to be a huge force in the programming world. Naturally, I'm quite happy about that :)

    Cheers,
    Ovid

    New address of my CGI Course.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by jhourcle (Prior) on Jul 28, 2005 at 00:10 UTC

    I'll probably be stoned for saying this here -- learn lots of languages.

    Over specialization can shoot you in the foot.

    In the middle ages, you'd apprentice until you learned the basics, and then you'd become a journeyman -- you'd travel around, trying to learn from different masters, until you had the skills so the guild would consider you to be a master yourself.

    You can learn a lot from taking the time to look around, because sometimes looking at things in different ways can help you learn, if you didn't quite grasp the concept the first time around. (and you might've thought you did, but realize later that you didn't). I've had that happen more than once, when the light suddenly hits ... (I still remember when I finally got object inheritance ... not just using it, but really understood what I was doing with it... and it was from coding LPC).

    Even if you don't ever use a language again, you'll find that you start to think about the problems differently -- I took a college class on 68k assembler one summer for the hell of it. I've never written another line of assembly again in my life, but it helps me think about the problem differently when I'm trying to optimize my code.

    It also helps you make more informed choices ... it's one thing to try to argue to a group that the project should be done in Perl, when that's the only language you know -- if you know other languages, you can give good reasons why it's better than some other option given the proposed project.

    As for Perl ... it'll still be here 5-10 years down the road, so long as we don't manage to blow up the planet by then. (after all, COBOL's still kicking around) It fits a niche -- sure, it might not be the fastest in execution speed, but it saves me work (in the long run...maybe not in the short run, when I find I've got some ambiguous code), and it's a hell of a lot more portable than most other languages.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by pg (Canon) on Jul 28, 2005 at 01:47 UTC

    Don't think of sticking to any language, otherwise you are stuck. It is simply the nature of this industry that, there are always new things for you to learn.

    Perl is a neat language in areas it fits, but there are also so many areas that I will never think of Perl.

    The answer is to learn Perl, but never think of sticking to it, or think Perl as the best language. That will only blind you.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by spiritway (Vicar) on Jul 28, 2005 at 02:56 UTC

    I think Perl has a bright future. It is a highly useful and versatile language that allows you to write anything from a quick little one-shot script, to a massive program filled with OO goodies. It's here to stay for the next several years, at least (IMNSHO).

    I think, however, that we often forget that much of what we think of as basic to a programming *language*, is simply programming itself. Loops are loops, however you implement them. The details will vary between languages, but the concept is the same.

    To me, the hard part of programming isn't learning the idiom, but developing the logic. Once I figure out how something should happen, converting that concept into some language is relatively simple. True - Perl makes it much simpler than other languages I've tried, but still - the hard part is figuring out just what needs to be done, and in what order.

    Probably the best course is to become relatively fluent in at least a few languages, even if you decide to concentrate most of your efforts on one. The more you know, the more options are available to you.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by TedPride (Priest) on Jul 28, 2005 at 06:51 UTC
    Perl does what you need with a minimum of fuss. This is not likely to change over the next x number of years. Who cares what language everyone else is using? If everyone suddenly switched from Perl to Python (or any other language), I'd still use Perl.
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 28, 2005 at 09:20 UTC
    Does it matter? Think how you want to present yourself on the market. Do you want to be a constructor, or someone who masters a specific tool? If you're going to buy a chair, do you care which brand hammer the carpenter used?

    I've always seen Perl as a tool. For me, it's my most important tool. All my employers I've had in the past 10 years have considered Perl to be a tool. They've been fine with me using Perl to do certain things. They would have been fine if I had used C, Java or Python as well. Does the customer care? Not at all. He just wants to the reports to be printed if he pushes the print button, or to see graphs on the screen, or his machine booting, or the databases staying up, or whatever I've done with Perl in the past decade or so.

    5 years from now, I expect 5.10.x to be in production, with 5.12 to be out soon. I don't expect perl6 to be production ready by then. I still expect to see at least a dozen Perl conferences and workshops a year. O'Reilly will still be cranking out Perl books. Perlmonks will still be there, and so will #perl. clpm will decline further. Mailing lists will still be active, and we will have a record number of Perl mongers groups.

    10 years from now, Larry Wall will announce he'll be running for president, and on January 24, 2017, Larry will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, succeeding Hillary Clinton.

      Does it matter? Think how you want to present yourself on the market. Do you want to be a constructor, or someone who masters a specific tool? If you're going to buy a chair, do you care which brand hammer the carpenter used?

      I understand your point, but unfortunately a lot of managerial types seem to think that the brand name on the tool is more important than who is using it. Paul Graham has some insight on that.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 28, 2005 at 09:57 UTC
    Perl is the cobol of year 2040 .

    Outside of the la la world where everything is coded perfectly , there is the real world, where a hudge amounts of scripts are written in Perl because it's easy and it's installed by default on many systems.

    All these scripts are acumulating, most of them are poorly coded, some of them are crucial to company functions ... I've already seen my fair share of hard encoded IP adresses that change and then "Buisness Unit X345 is not receiving it's files" etc. ...

    Granted, this could happen with any other language, but Perl's wide availability made it the tool of choice for such uncontrolled developpements.

    Of course those scripts will not be written in a very clean way, to say the less, and some will turn into a maintenance hell ( i know : it's already the case ) .

    So under this light, i guess you can say that there's gonna be a lots of job for Perl coders, for quite a long time !!

    <rant off>

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Petras (Friar) on Jul 28, 2005 at 10:45 UTC
    Read Tim O'Reily's article on this issue at O'Reily's website.

    Cheers!
    -p

    Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

    -Howard Aiken
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by cog (Parson) on Jul 28, 2005 at 11:30 UTC
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future? (Fear)
by systems (Pilgrim) on Jul 28, 2005 at 12:44 UTC
    A rule to live by ...
    A rule never proven wrong ...

    Fear is bad, if fear is directing your moves, your are going in the wrong direction.
    I sense fear in your words

    When it comes to programming, there is a very good advice that says, that you should learn a new language every now and then.
    I add that you should you be competant in different type of languages.
    • A system programming language: c or c++ (why not both)
    • SQL
    • XSLT & XML
    • A functional programming language: Haskell or OCaml
    • JavaScript, to create flexible browsers UI.
    • Scripting languages: Perl, Ruby, Tcl (I love Tcl)
    The problem is the market values experts (kinda, nowadays we may argue against this), and jumping from learning one language to another, is risky, you can waste you valueble time, and end up only scratching the surface of a dozen different languages (I did that).
    So, just do you best and strike a good balance. But just never bet everything on one language.

    Should you stick with Perl?
    Sure, and learn other languages too.
    Does Perl have a bright future?
    If we can only take a peak into the future, but I think you are asking the wrong question. You should care more about your future, not Perl's future (not that we want to put to waste the skills we've learned, but ...). Learning Perl will definitely make you a better developer, regardless of anything, and that is good for your future.

Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 28, 2005 at 12:45 UTC
    Original node poster ...

    I thought that it's understood :) I never planed to only know Perl. As a matter of fact trough my education (High and now Advanced School for Electrical Engineering) I learned some Assembler, Pascal, C and C++, VB, Java, JavaScript, now learning C# ... and I plan to take a look at PHP, Python and Ruby when I have some free time.

    But I still believe that there has to be one thing which you will consider that you know best (out of all other things you know). And just wondering should it be Perl. Currently I do know Perl best out of those I already learned simply because I use it most - but feel and know there is a lot more to learn about it.

    As I said, no one can (with 100% accuracy) predict what will be going on in the future - especially in IT. So I don't plan to be a racing horse with that eye-fold they have to look only in one direction ...

    PS If Perl6 is going to take that long (why is that anyway?) don't you think it will be old technology at the time it hits 'production'? What needs to be done to speed it up?
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by samizdat (Vicar) on Jul 28, 2005 at 13:22 UTC
    Perl has a bright future, because it's already propagated everywhere. There's far more Perl in business environments than there ever was COBOL (though perhaps not proportionally :), so someone who can reverse engineer old transaction processing websites has a good, solid future.

    I'll echo the comments about programming versus language, though; they're absolutely right. I think it's far better to have half a dozen Perl texts on my desk -- and to use them regularly while creating production code -- than it is to spend my waking hours mastering arcane syntax of things that <whisper> weren't implemented well</whisper>.

    Use your time to learn new methodologies. I've heard good things about Higher Order Perl, but the Net is full of articles about the concepts. It will do your mind far more good to bend itself around conceptual leaps in Prolog or even SNOBOL in order to understand why they were built the way they were than it will to install a new Chatterbox client in order to socialize.

    Programming languages WILL change. Our CPUs are so powerful now that we are the bottleneck. I see directions like IBM's Cell (multiple simpler CPUs on a chip) as becoming more popular. Is a linear paradigm a la Knuth still viable as the number of threads goes up? How much of our future will be parallel pattern recognizers and how much will be step-by-step iteration?

    It may be that Perl will still be what it is five years from now, but the question will be, "How relevant is it?" At some level, and to some people, it will still be very relevant. FWIW, as long as we still use keyboards and alphabet-based language systems with low-level (iterative ALU-based) hardware, Perl will be able to contribute.

    I believe, however, that we will move towards a future in which CPUs and memory are embedded in everything, large quantities of them, and the communication and prioritizing of their results will outweigh the importance of any given computation on any given CPU. The whole paradigm of creating a complete "program" and handing it to a CPU will become a much less important activity, I think, unless you are a systems implementor creating the underlying infrastructure. The activity of programming will be much more one of juggling capabilities of already existant nodes to accomplish tasks in a far more transient way. Imagine, for instance, that you have a sea of little CPUs out there, each of which has its own CPAN and its own action capabilities. Some will be drivers for picture walls, others will be listening nodes for spoken input, still others will run the environmental systems for your house. The API for those libraries will become much more important than the base language, IMHO, and it'll become a lot harder to tell the difference between code written for that purpose in shell script or in Perl. I think something more like Expect will become important, though Perl will probably mutate in that direction.

    All that smoke blowing aside, becoming adept in Perl is a good thing, especially if you use it regularly to do real work. I'd take care, though, especially at your age, not to think that you have a plan that you can get comfortable with. It sounds to me like you're in a former Soviet satellite, yes? IMHO, your life opportunities may change a lot faster than Perl will, and keeping your antennae fully extended in THAT arena will do you much more good than mastering multidimensional references in Perl.
      Syntax is not problem anymore (well atleast not with Perl - but I keep putting $ in front of variables in other languages :)

      I'll echo the comments about programming versus language, though; they're absolutely right. I think it's far better to have half a dozen Perl texts on my desk -- and to use them regularly while creating production code -- than it is to spend my waking hours mastering arcane syntax of things that <whisper> weren't implemented well</whisper>. Use your time to learn new methodologies. I've heard good things about Higher Order Perl, but the Net is full of articles about the concepts.
      Of course - when I said learn perl to be a pro in it I actualy ment (Do What I Mean :) to learn new methodologies as there is absolutely no use to learn sytax of some rarely used things. I've also picked some books like Effective Perl (Free download) and few others like Perl Medic and Perl Debuged (I actualy never used Perl debuger yet) wich are on my to learn list.

      And no I'm not from ex Soviet Union - but it's somewhat similar - ex Yugoslavia - Serbia (and Montenegro).

      Could you please explain : "I'd take care, though, especially at your age, not to think that you have a plan that you can get comfortable with. " couldnt folow you on that ... to me it seems like code that need refactoring :) Altho it also seems like I'm getting to much used to direct and simplified (marketing) English.

        Serbia... an even more tragic place (if that's possible).

        It is more important to develop awareness, flexibility and creativity than to hold to a plan you make when you are young. Perl should be a tool, in other words, not a goal.
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 28, 2005 at 15:52 UTC
    YES
Re: Should I stick with Perl - does Perl have bright future?
by monkfan (Curate) on Jul 30, 2005 at 17:06 UTC
    Check out this excellent apologetic by tilly.
    There is also an article by Paul Graham that attempts to predict what programming languages
    would survive in 100 years time and why. You bet! Perl is the one!
    Regards,
    Edward

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