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Larry Wall on the Zen of Perl 6

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Laziness, impatience, and hubris: the three qualities that make a programmer, according to Larry Wall, the creator of Perl.

Perl earned its fame years ago by being the major language driving web programming, and distinguished itself from the rest of the pack by allowing developers to write full-featured programs using nothing but punctuation. Perl 6, which has been in development for the better part of a decade, has shown Larry to be at least one third correct. Which third, however, depends on who you ask.

In an interview with Computerworld, Larry made some philosophical remarks that explain the seeming stagnation on Perl 6. When asked about the basic similarity between Perl 5 and Perl 6, Larry said: "Similar things should look similar but similar things should also look different, and how you trade those things off is an interesting design principle."

It's very Zen, but this is standard issue for Perl developers: the way you understand a Perl program depends on how you read it. Those seeking the path to enlightenment should probably start with Perl 6 interpreters.

The wise master, responding to a question about standards for Perl 6, has decreed that fragmentation and unity are one in the same: "We have a saying: all is fair if you pre-declare it. The idea with Perl 6 is you start with a standard language and you can mutate it."

Larry later added: "My vision of Perl's future is that I hope I don't recognize it in 20 years."

For the Perl community, this promise of ambiguity is a favor. Perl programmers have long ensured their own job security by writing code that the machines themselves have trouble understanding, and Perl 6 seems will bring this tradition to the next level. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

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