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Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)

by webfiend (Vicar)
on May 23, 2002 at 04:38 UTC ( [id://168649]=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

This thought has been wandering through my head for a few years, but today it was keeping me from getting work done. Might as well share it with the Monastery and find out if the folks here can beat it down where it belongs.

I assign personality traits to everything. Food, cars, computers, and occasionally people. It is hard to remember that the ice tray is empty because of evaporation, and not because of the freezer holding some grudge against me. A lot of people have this trait, so it doesn't bother me much.

This odd habit has turned its attention to the programming languages I have learned in my time as a geek.

C is gruff, terse, and more than willing to let you nail-gun your foot to the floor. Eventually you'll figure out on your own that you need to be more careful with nail guns, so why should C have to tell you? Sounds like the classic "Dad in the garage" personality. Just remember to be careful with the power drill.

Python is distinctly maternal. It will go out of its way to make sure that you do things properly: "Don't go out without a sweater! Always use proper indentation!" And you know how sometimes Mom was upset, and you couldn't quite understand why? How well does "Syntax Error: Invalid Syntax" match up to that experience? I thought so!

Java has got to be an aging model, or maybe the prom queen 20 years later. Even though it has gained a lot of weight over the years, it still wants to be on the cover of every magazine, loved or hated (or both) by throngs of programmers. Described by a handful of buzzwords and exclamation points: "It's hot! It's now! It's platform independent and OO, it's Object Oriented, too!" Of course, if you don't speak her language with no mistakes, you'll never be able to make her get any work done. You have to speak 100 percent Java, or nothing for you, plebeian!

Yeah, I've had troubles with Java. Those girls would never go out with me. Hmmm ... pardon me while I go deal with some issues...

Okay, I'm better now. Back to the languages.

Perl ... I'm not exactly sure what Perl is. Is it male or female? I don't know, but it sure is ugly! It isn't symmetrical, syntactically clean, or particularly hygienic. Don't even get me started on OO in Perl - Perl's objects go to a different school, where none of the other OO kids will even talk to them. Still, Perl is friendly. It will try to do what you meant to say, rather than force its own opinions on you. Don't like the way it works? A little AUTOLOAD here, some CPAN there, and you're practically using a different language. It has flexibility that a yoga master would be envious of. That grotesque syntax isn't so bad, either, if you look at it in the right light - beautiful, in its own unique way. Mind you, it'll never make it on the cover of a magazine, but still ...

And how can you not like a language that is willing to give you closure(s)?

(And the Monks groan at the bad pun ...)

Ruby is a bit like Perl, but younger and cuter. Maybe the neighbor's genius kid or something. A lot of potential there, make no mistake about it. It's clever, fun, and handles all those buzzwords the Java folk throw around, then throws a couple more right back at them. Of course, it's still growing up. There'll be some time to wait before Ruby reaches the level of maturity that Perl has. Besides, I hear Perl's up for some major reconstructive surgery in the next couple of years.

So these are my thoughts. The right thing to do now would be to close the browser window, banishing these strange thoughts to /dev/null. But I'm curious how everybody else looks at their languages. There is a small sane part of me that hopes I am the only geek who carries on a conversation with the Perl interpreter at 3am, but I've gotta know: who is Perl for the rest of you?

"All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."-- Mark Twain
  • Comment on Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)

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Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by dws (Chancellor) on May 23, 2002 at 05:14 UTC
    Perl is the friendly old guy down the street who has a garage full of power tools that he teaches the neighborhood kids how to use. Some kids pooh-pooh the old tools, favoring the cool electric yellow plastic ones now on sale at the hardware store. They leave. The kids who stay learn to build things. Some make great furniture, make crap, and others disassemble to tools to see how they work.

      Perhaps not anthropomorphizing, but is perl the old guy here, or the garage? Looking at it this way, I see it more as the garage, where yes, you can still get into trouble by sliding a board across the planer with your hand and slicing your hand (similar perhaps to hand-rolling something instead of using an available module), or getting into a table saw (regex?) or tangled in hoses and/or wires (data structures?). Yes, sometimes you see one of those shiny new tools (like objects, for example) laying in the toolbox (because it might sometime be useful, although it might be a little battered before it makes itself comfortably at home). And, if you poke around and explore enough, sometimes you find something in the toolroom to make your current project easier (or just to play with because it seems cool).

      If you follow that thread along, then in a way you could look at the Monastery similar to a relaxed high-school shop class, where you have students of varying grades (levels? experiences?) asking questions or showing some of their latest creations or helping another with a particular tool they can use fairly well, the occasional class clown or troll, a few who want to know if you can make them something without trying because they forgot to do their homework for next period and want to borrow yours, and very patient, sometimes over-worked teachers who stay with it for the love of teaching and the subject, who (gently or thru percussive therapy) try to get it through our (sometimes thick) heads that safety and having fun it don't have to be mutually exclusive.

      Appologies for the sleep-deprived ramblings, but that's what I thought of when I saw dws's reply.

        I think Perl may just be the old man *and* the garage. Or the high school teacher *and* the shop class. I know that my love for Perl would not be so complete were it not for the resources out there - the community resources for sharing knowledge and advancing the capabilities of the language (modules). Perl is the idea that for nearly any job, someone with an open mind and a full garage can pick through whatever tools available and show you one way to tackle the problem, given these tools and his specific flavor of ingenuity. Perl is the idea that an intelligent person can determine that one good way to fix this thing is to tighten that screw, and if need be, I can use the back end of this here claw hammer, or possibly a butter knife, and tighten that screw.

        A friend of mine was learning Perl and hacking through some simple scripts I had written to solve some of his problems, figuring it out along the way. He had said to me that he only had a few tools to work with (split, join, pack, unpack at the time methinks), and after a while, everything starts looking like a hammer. Thinking about that now.. a hammer is the simplest tool there is, and as brute force as it gets. We're still effectively using a hammer to beat through political issues, but this is not the place for that ;) The important thing is that we have myriad tools available throughout the world, and they all started with taking something heavy and beating something else until it looked useful. You can use a hammer to make a screw driver. For me, Perl makes me think that you are not limited by a particular language and the tools that it makes available, but rather you are given carte blanche to take those tools and make new tools out of them - or even just use the back end of the claw hammer in an unexpected way to get the job done.


        And according to your interpretation, the old man is strict;. He should never leave the garage ;-) Whenever he does people become mightily prone to accidents...


Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Biker (Priest) on May 23, 2002 at 08:25 UTC

    Perl is the rebel. The one walking sideways, using the unthinkable way of quickly solving the problem.

    Perl is politically incorrect in a polished world of VB, Java, Powerpoint presentations and Bullet points. (Management doesn't know how to read sentences with more than six words.)

    Someone said: "Good Perl is hidden, and has no name."

    Perl is what makes our inhouse VB programmers scream, saying that "We should at all costs avoid that <disgust>scripting language</disgust>". Because Perl solved the automation problem in just a small moment, where their VB application will require human intervention to do anything at all. (When and if they'll finish it. (Chuckle))

    Perl is frowned upon, by the suits. Perl disturbs, because it's politically incorrect, but still it just works and works.

    Did I mention that I love Perl?

    Everything went worng, just as foreseen.

      Someone said: "Good Perl is hidden, and has no name."

      Hey, that was me! Or I was one of the folks who noticed it, anyways.

      "All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."-- Mark Twain
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by grep (Monsignor) on May 23, 2002 at 05:17 UTC
    I see Perl as Garth (Wayne's World). The geeky kid who knows how to fix everything, the crazy inventor. The fashion sense is about 5 years behind, but everything he does works. (Hmmm Buzzword compliance or working code.... which do I want??)

    As a side note Dana Carvey based Garth off of his brother Brad's personality - he was a geeky kid who fixed everything - He ended up developing the Video Toaster (for all you old Amiga fans out there).

    These are not the monks you are looking for, move along

Re: Who is Perl? (She's a beauty!)
by gmax (Abbot) on May 23, 2002 at 07:11 UTC
    Perl ... I'm not exactly sure what Perl is. Is it male or female? I don't know, but it sure is ugly!
    In my personal view, Perl is most definetly a beautiful dark-hair witch, whose glaze can either make you fall in love or turn you into a toad.
    If you fall in love, then she will also make you a wizard, will force you to make sacrifices to her gods with frightful names, Hash, Map, Grep and RegEx, and you will never be the same again.
     _  _ _  _  
    (_|| | |(_|><
(jeffa) Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by jeffa (Bishop) on May 23, 2002 at 06:53 UTC
    I see Perl as the kid with confident knowledge, blessed with a sense of sensibility. Perl cuts through the small talk and gets right to the point - "what do you want to do today?" Perl is the underdog that gets overlooked because Perl doesn't have to prove what Perl can do. Perl just does it, and then smiles and nods while the others are still explaining how they are going to do it. Perl is the fountain of infinite creativity, always giving by letting others do the shaping anyway they want. Folks can damn doing it more than one way all they want, but i'll always revel in wonder at how someone else can express a solution in ways i would have never even dreamed of.


    (the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Sweeper (Pilgrim) on May 23, 2002 at 05:37 UTC

      Thank you! I'd read that way back when (side note: notice how "way back when" could be last month or 10 years ago, depending on who says it?), and the mindset displayed in the article was what sold me on trying out Perl in the first place. I hadn't thought about that article for a long time. Actually, I'd forgotten all about it until you mentioned it.

      Sweeper++ for reminding me.

      "All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."-- Mark Twain
      yes exactly Perl is like Cartoons .... fun, clever, u can smash it in any way u want but it will restore is never ending inventions ....
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by schumi (Hermit) on May 23, 2002 at 09:53 UTC
    Perl is the guy in the background who you never see, but who always gets everything done nicely and neatly without anyone really noticing. Coming to think of it, Perl would be the ideal butler...

    Perl is definitely a long raven-haired beauty of Italian temper who lets you worhsip her until she has had enough, and who you will never fully understand, no matter how long you try.

    But above all, Perl is perfectly willing to cope with your quirks, do what you want it to, and still be forgiving as much as you expect it, and then some.

    Oh, and no, you're definitely not the only one talking to your interpreter - at any time of day. ;-)


    There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. - George Carlin

Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by dada (Chaplain) on May 23, 2002 at 09:31 UTC
    these are my thoughts at the moment...

    I can't avoid to imagine Perl with Larry's moustaches. trés demodé, but definitely something that will stay there forever.

    he's a friend, an old friend of mine who knows better -- but doesn't beat me on the head when I show my cluelessness.
    oh, and he's always enthusiast to run every single snippet of code :-)


    __END__ $_=q,just perl,,s, , another ,,s,$, hacker,,print;
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Molt (Chaplain) on May 23, 2002 at 10:21 UTC

    From what I've read about him, it sounds like Larry ended up putting more into Perl than what he'd initially intended.

    Perl is Larry, or maybe the other way round.

    Perl's the polyglot, the one with omniverous tastes who seems to want to be everywhere doing everything, working with businesses but still keeping a respectful distance from the marketing machines. Perl's the one who's cracking jokes (Bleach, anyone? Yes, I know that's one of TheDamian's.. but I think it shows Perl philosophy well), getting the job done, and making sure others get involved, quirky and willing to allow you your own quirks.

    Maybe with Perl 6 the community redesign will show through and Perl will be different in personality, but I still think the Larryness will show through. It's something in the moustache, I think.

Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on May 23, 2002 at 10:47 UTC
    Perl is the aging professor who always seems absent minded and speaks in a sometimes absurdly complicated seeming manner, but can calculate cubic roots (is that the English term?) in his head without any aids and will find and fix mistakes in his colleagues' exams' questions while overseeing a class that is writing one, because he's bored and has nothing better to do. (I actually had such a teacher.)

    Makeshifts last the longest.

        Perl is the aging professor who always seems absent minded and speaks in a sometimes absurdly complicated seeming manner...

      No, that's Haskell. Perl's the gruff, impatient first-year prof who's nevertheless beloved by most of his class (the get-a-degree-get-a-job types don't like him, because he won't tell them what's going to be on the final) and seems frighteningly competent in every specialization you (or he) can think of. (And yes, I had such a prof -- several, in fact.)

      The hell with paco, vote for Erudil!

Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by cybear (Monk) on May 24, 2002 at 17:58 UTC
    Perl is a geeky girl...

    From the outside she may not be that much to look at.
    But if you can get past the messy hair and glasses, she's a real winner

    Smart, versitle, and willing to do just about anything that you want,
    as long as you know how to ask (use Do::Anything)

    You may not want to take her to a formal Ball. But who likes that stuff anyway?!
    Perl is loyal, and can be as domineering (use strict, perl -w, etc.) or as easy-going
    as you are.

    She does not have expensive tastes (Perl can be obtained free),but she will
    be very greatful for gifts of BIG hardware.

Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by snellm (Monk) on May 24, 2002 at 09:06 UTC
    To me Perl at it's best is like a Zen master: Rather than seeking to frame problems in it's own terms, it flows around them.


    -- Michael Snell

Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by tmiklas (Hermit) on May 24, 2002 at 18:04 UTC
    Well said, ++

    Perl as a woman: inteligent, sensitive to your needs, heavy working but light and beautiful at the same time. Very helpful and responsible, never tells you not do do something or do it other way... Sometimes she won't talk with you, so then you will by crying as a baby. You don't have to tell her what to do - she just feels taht and does it without one word. Anyway She's perfect!

    Perl as a man:: very strong and powerful, sometimes lazy. Won't mind if you buy him a beer (and almost always he asks for more). Will never live you without any help, but if you make him angry, he (you?!) will smash your face at the keyboard.

    Perl as an animal: strong as a camel (becouse of carying heavy loads and great variety of things), funny as a little moneky, smart as a dolphin, can change his external look as a cameleon, fast as a hunting tiger, etc...

    ... and much more :-)

    Greetz, Tom.
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Anonymous Monk on May 24, 2002 at 09:54 UTC
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by penguinfuz (Pilgrim) on May 24, 2002 at 21:33 UTC
    • There is a small sane part of me that hopes I am the only geek who carries on a conversation with the Perl interpreter at 3am...
    Shhh tell the *sane* part to go back to sleep! ;)

    I have never really put my thoughts of Perl into a framework but I would definately say Perl is something special to me. I generally think of myself as a mediocre coder at best (slowly getting better); However I could never give up because Perl keeps calling me.

    I would have to say Perl is definitely female and likened along the lines of a siren, luring me near with a feeling I cannot accurately describe. The only thing that does not fit into the sirens analogy is the pending doom, of which I can see none -- But neither did anyone ever trapped by a siren's song, no?
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Zed_Lopez (Chaplain) on Dec 01, 2004 at 20:38 UTC

    As I've been learning Python, I find myself muppetomorphizing. With Fraggle Rock as context, Perl is the Fraggles. Python is the Doozers.

      "muppetomorphizing" ... that's beautiful.
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by wolfger (Deacon) on Dec 01, 2004 at 19:53 UTC
    Perl is the stereotypical hacker. Scruffy-looking, not the best social skills in the world, but happy... no, *eager* to work miracles for you. With a little touch of ADHD ("oh, look, *neat*!") on the side.

    Linux, sci-fi, and Nat Torkington, all at Penguicon 3.0
Re: Who is Perl? (Anthropomorphizing Everything)
by Cody Pendant (Prior) on Mar 30, 2004 at 09:03 UTC
    I just saw Twister for about the fourteenth time, and I think Perl is Philip Seymour Hoffman's character in that movie, what was he called, Dusty?

    He's a hippie-looking guy who's not quite normal, barreling down the road listening to classic rock in a battered old truck full of battered old equipment, but there's no question about his ability.

    He might not be the guy you take home to meet Mom, or to work to meet the Managing Director, but, you know, he gets the job done and you feel a great affection for him.

    =~y~b-v~a-z~s; print

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