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What's the story behind the camel?

by borgia (Sexton)
on May 11, 2003 at 23:55 UTC ( #257313=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

borgia has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

I'm new to Perl and am loving it a lot more than I loved java. I have a non-serious question. How did Perl get associated with camels? Is there any Perl lore on this.

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Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by VSarkiss (Monsignor) on May 12, 2003 at 00:36 UTC

    An old joke on commitees stated, "A camel is a horse designed by a committee"; similar to saying a jack of all trades is master of none.

    Since Larry Wall first came up with Perl as amalgam of several different languages (Bourne shell, awk, sed, even BASIC-PLUS) it was a sort of "design by commitee": a camel of programming languages.

    My memory's a little foggy, but IIRC the association was there even before the Camel book was published, so the cover choice was a natural one. Maybe TimToady or merlyn will remember more clearly which came first.

      So off-topic, but I've heard Stephen Jay Gould get very annoyed with the phrase "A camel is a horse designed by a committee".

      It's an insult to camels, which are not overburdened with extras, as the phrase implies, but perfectly adapted to their environment; it's also an insult to committees of course. I think he gets mad when people refer to aging rock stars as "dinosaurs" too.
      --

      “Every bit of code is either naturally related to the problem at hand, or else it's an accidental side effect of the fact that you happened to solve the problem using a digital computer.”
      M-J D

        I don't think he's been bothered by it recently, unfortunately.

        Does he have anything to say about the common use of "lemmings"? ;-)

        Makeshifts last the longest.

      I prefer to think of a horse as a camel designed by a capitalist - they look after it while it's making them money, but as soon as it breaks a leg...

      :) Ben.

Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on May 12, 2003 at 00:11 UTC
    Basically because O'Reilly has been doing animal covers on their computer books for quite some years. When the first ("pink") Programming Perl went to print, a camel was choosen.

    Not everyone is very happy with this association. The association is trademarked after all, and it does serve a commercial interest (note for instance that non O'Reilly Perl books don't carry camels).

    Abigail

      Not everyone is very happy with this association. The association is trademarked after all, and it does serve a commercial interest (note for instance that non O'Reilly Perl books don't carry camels).

      Indeed, I think there is a Perl6 RFC on a Perl mascot because of the trademark. Sort of ironic that Perl, a shining star in the open source movement, is associated with a mascot that no one can use without permission from a company.

        I don't think it's ironic. AFAIK O'Reilly only object to the use the camel image when its used to the detriment of Perl, which to my mind is a fair point. Any individual or company holding a trademark would feel the same way.

        O'Reilly happened to have copyrighted it because it was their book that was published and used that image. Had Wrox or Addison Wesley or some other Publishing house published the book, I'm sure they would have pretty much done the same.

        O'Reilly have a healthy attitude to Open Source IMO, and I would rather a company with clout protect Open Source, than a group of individuals with little or no money to support any infringements, and very little weight in a court to do anything about it anyway.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Barbie
        Birmingham Perl Mongers
        Web Site: http://birmingham.pm.org/
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by DigitalKitty (Parson) on May 12, 2003 at 01:25 UTC
    Hi borgia.

    The following site:

    Camel story

    reinforces what the other monks have said but evidently the author seems to think that perl ( and it's programmers by association ) embody several positive qualities possessed by camels ( intelligent, patience, etc. ). They are also quite capable of surviving in harsh climates ( adaptable ). Like perl, which seems to thrive virtually everywhere, I suspect this is the reason for the association.

    Good question.

    :)

    Hope this helps,

    -Katie.
      embody several positive qualities possessed by camels ( intelligent, patience, etc. )

      And of course overwhelming retribution when you piss them off! :)

      --
      Allolex

Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by theorbtwo (Prior) on May 12, 2003 at 01:11 UTC

    O'Reilly's web site has two articles about the animals, featuring two artists, Lori Houston and Edie Freedman.

    The articles say that sometimes the animals come from the editors and authors, and sometimes from the artist, so it's somwhat up in the air if Larry et al chose it for some purticular reason.


    Warning: Unless otherwise stated, code is untested. Do not use without understanding. Code is posted in the hopes it is useful, but without warranty. All copyrights are relinquished into the public domain unless otherwise stated. I am not an angel. I am capable of error, and err on a fairly regular basis. If I made a mistake, please let me know (such as by replying to this node).

      Most O'Reilly books have half a page or so of explanation about the cover animal - what it is, why it was chosen - at the end of the book in the colophon. Camel III does not appear to have this, and I'm pretty sure Camel II (which I used to have) doesn't either. Maybe someone who has the pink Camel can check? Update: must be the German translation that's missing it then.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

        Camel III does indeed have it, but it doesn't say why the camel was chosen:

        "The animal on the cover of Programming Perl, Third Edition is a dromedary (one-hump camel). Camels are large ruminant mammals, weighing between 1,000 and 1,600 pounds and standing six to seven feet tall at the shoulders. They are well known for their use as draft and saddle animals in the desert regions, especially of Africa and Asia. Camels can go for days without water. If food is scarce, they will eat anything, even their owner's tent. Camels live up to 50 years."

        The explanation in the text (p. 4) is the following (look up "camel" in the index... Now I have to find out about "bloody camels" and "pink vs. blue camels"!)

        "We often joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, but if you think about it, the camel is self-sufficient. (On the other hand, the camel has not evolved to smell good. Neither has Perl.) This is one of the many strange reasons we picked the camel to be Perl's mascot, but it doesn't have much to do with linguistics."

        Camel II, at the very least, does contain a Colophon, but the page isn't numbered, and it isn't in the Table of Contents. I can't find my Camel III, but I assume it's more or less the same. The Colophon is three pages after the last grey (index) page.

        OTOH, while it gives a paragraph-full of information about the camel, it gives nothing on why they decided to use a camel for the Camel.


        Warning: Unless otherwise stated, code is untested. Do not use without understanding. Code is posted in the hopes it is useful, but without warranty. All copyrights are relinquished into the public domain unless otherwise stated. I am not an angel. I am capable of error, and err on a fairly regular basis. If I made a mistake, please let me know (such as by replying to this node).

Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by hsweet (Pilgrim) on May 12, 2003 at 00:05 UTC
    The camel is on the cover of the O'Reilly book programming Perl, the cannonical Perl tome. Most of their books have animals on the cover. I don't know why the camel instead of a flea or some other beast though.

    Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like banannas

      Perl, the cannonical Perl tome.

      It is cannonical because it can be used as an heavy projectile. It does not have the penetrative power of depleted uranium though.

      Books of the "unleashed collection" are pretty good arms as their name suggests but otherwise lack the good kind of density.

      Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like banannas

      Yes, I can spell bananna but I'm never sure when to stop.

      Sorry, I could not resist.

      -- stefp
      Come to YAPC::Europe 2003 in Paris, 23-25 July 2003.

Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by BrowserUk (Pope) on May 12, 2003 at 04:58 UTC

    What's behind the Camel.

    Put it this way, you don't wanna be there when it's delivered. Mind you, from what I've seen you don't wanna be at the other end during effusion either:)


    Examine what is said, not who speaks.
    "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
    "When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." -Richard Buckminster Fuller
Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by merlyn (Sage) on May 12, 2003 at 10:30 UTC

      Val Rayner, ostensibly the author of So You Want To Ride A Camel?, describes the camel as "one of the most useful animals known to humans" and also mentions the perils of traveling in a caravan -- presumably in single file.

      To paraphrase, perl is one of the most useful tools known to humans... Not a Great TruthTM, but I'd be willing to argue it over a beer.

      C

Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by Parham (Friar) on May 12, 2003 at 13:43 UTC
    I read this somewhere (not an exact quote because I can't seem to find it).

    "Perl is a lot like a camel, it may look ugly in the end, but it does the job, and does it well"

    I think that quote related directly to perl's obfuscation though.
Re: What's the story behind the camel?
by didier (Vicar) on May 13, 2003 at 14:38 UTC
    Just for the fun.
    Glossing Claude Nougaro (a french singer):

    Perl is a starry night guiding camelful of words in the desert.
    Sometimes crossing some bony remains, languages rendered inert.

    My oh my, why did I wonder into those dunes so soon ?
    Was I expecting Larry, wearing his cloak of threaded moon?

    "I enjoy your thirst", he would have said,
    "drink this, water for the mental".
    And I would have drink the verses,
    of a language so fondamental.

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