Unbeknown to me, some people have been asserting that Perl’s heyday has come and gone. Sterling Hanenkamp and Kevin Marshall have posted a fair rebuttal over at perlbuzz.com. I thought I’d tag on a bit to what Kevin and Sterling brought up.
Truly great languages do receive updates less frequently as they age. That’s because such a large base of programmers have learned the earlier libraries and being the bright chaps they are, they requested more and more features. Until at a certain point the product becomes so eminently usable that very little else needs to be added for most users.
Now there are going to be specific requirements for each project and that’s where the development comes in. But god bless these bright chaps, because not only do many Perl programmers write this custom code, but they frequently check it back into CPAN as modules.
So other people who program similar projects with these precise requirements don’t have to reinvent the 7-spoke, 16″, lithium-greased, carbon steel wheel. You see, Perl provided the wheel to everyone who worked with the base language. But not everyone needs a 7-spoke, 16″, lithium-greased, carbon steel wheel. Especially when they’re writing really secure code that has to be analyzed line by line for security risks. Or if they want to write really small code that will work on a mobile phone or embedded code.
Why is this good for business?
Do you really want your programmers to have to re-learn their code-base every 5 years? I knew lots of people who used to know how to do some Visual C++ and Visual Basic development back in the .com days. Then along came Java. In the midst of this came a lot of middleware that provided common libraries for programmers. And then came .net. Now, most Java developers don’t do Microsoft stuff, but these days some .net guys do perl and some java guys do some .net.
But trying to find and hire people that will mesh with whatever mix of code your shop is currently running is difficult for technical managers. It’s completely impossible for HR and non-technical managers.
Now I’m not saying that hiring Perl developers is necessarily any easier. And I’m not trying to be a Luddite either. All I’m saying is that new revisions of products come out when current needs aren’t being met. So we haven’t needed another Perl for a while now.
And Sterling hits on a brilliant point about how poorly the TIOBE index measures current market needs or the current state of code development. Go figure that a free language doesn’t have a bunch of PR geeks hiring Search Engine Optimization guys to drive up the results of people’s searches. Microsoft and Sun are literally spending millions of dollars to try in tilt these sort of comparison’s in their favor because it helps them make money. Then we have to spend our money to learn the new skills, license the new libraries, call for support on their poorly written new projects, etc. etc.
In summary, Perl still kicks much ass and it’s not going anywhere any time soon because the price is right, it does the heavy lifting, has a good community full of nice people like the Perl Monks and Larry Wall is god.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery