L. Peter Deutsch hates Perl

... and Larry Wall.

Deutsch: [...] that is Lisp is lexically pretty monotonous.

Seibel: I think Larry Wall described it as a bowl of oatmeal with fingernail clippings in it.

Deutsch: Well, my description of Perl is something that looks like it came out of the wrong end of a dog. I think Larry Wall has a lot of nerve talking about language design - Perl is an abomination as a language.

I wonder what the right end of a dog is?

L. Peter Deutsch (of Ghostscript fame) in Coders at Work


Quite a few of the interviewees in this book come across as quite arrogant, and clearly out of their depths when talking about Perl. Makes me wonder how right they are talking about things I don't understand...

Well I think you have to clarify what you are talking about. There are these languages with nice theories behind them and languages, which are made to actually do things.

Perl is great to actually do stuff.

It's not like the two are mutually exclusive. Lisp is used for large critical systems, so is Perl.

Perl is an abomination as a language (I submit that if you disagree, you haven't looked at the interpreter source or the edge cases). That doesn't mean it isn't useful, or that you can't do real work in it. But it does have practical implications, it's probably a big factor in why Ruby and Python have alternate VM's and we don't.

Anyway, that interview looks like it could have gone better. Mentioning someone's joke about Lisp doesn't seem to have advanced the interview.

I have no idea what Larry really thinks of LISP but I can understand how such comments about fingernails, even if that's a joke, make people grumpy.

Of course breaking the laws that were created by the serious CS people and creating a language that become one of the most widely used and useful languages did not make him popular either in the eyes of the serious CS people.

Oh and I just saw this:

"All language designers are arrogant. Goes with the territory... :-)"

-- Larry Wall in 1991Jul13.010945.19157@netlabs.com

in Perl Timeline

I have the impression that until relatively recently Larry hadn't really looked at or used any languages that weren't part of the traditional Unix toolchain.

There's a lot of ideas from other languages in Perl 6, but these usually seem to seep in by osmosis from other people, rather than Larry going "I just wrote this neat program in CL/Haskell/Smalltalk, let's implement that in Perl 6".

I may be completely wrong, but that's been my impression.

I don't think that you can judge the 'worth' of a language by an implementation -- you could have the most perfect language possible, one which has 'do_what_I_want()' (as opposed to 'do_what_I_mean()', which could still get things wrong), which is implemented in a horrendous mix of Java, Perl, BASIC, PASCAL, and APL. That wouldn't mean that the language isn't good, just that someone needed to re-implement it in itself.

According to this page:


The last time the guy wrote real code was in 2002. So, come on, we can't really blame him for thinking that Perl was a steaming pile of garbage back then. The large majority of Perl code written back then was really bad and we just need to face this past reality.

Perl didn't get a bad fame without reason. Today, we need to work on restoring its image by showing people this is no longer the case, by showing that the language evolved.

"Perl didn't get a bad fame without reason. Today, we need to work on restoring its image by showing people this is no longer the case, by showing that the language evolved."

Although I would agree as a community we are writing better (better at doing what coders need today) code I hesitate to say Perl in 2002 was steaming garbage. I know there's a ton of poorly written Perl from the mid to late 90s, and I would probably agree that from 1999-2003 Perl development in terms of providing what programmers of the day needed wasn't what we'd like to see. So we did lose some mind-share during that time, which is why I think we have corrected or course a bit :)

I ran a few polls last year trying to figure out what it was that gave Perl a bad rap. I have to say its not just from the early 2000s, when I started programming full time in 1996 I remember at my first job being told Perl was considered legacy, that it would hurt my career, and that I needed to do more PL/SQL (procedural Oracle database language) if I wanted to advance. That turned out to not be true, but the deep anti Perl sentiment goes pretty far back and I can't really see how its linked to any true deficiencies in our tool chain at any given point in time.

Well, I've never seen anyone with anti-Perl feelings before 2000 or so as I've been programming in Perl since 2000.

I chose Perl as a language back then as I wanted to do some web development and everyone basically recommended Perl.

Personally, I only started seeing people with anti-Perl feelings maybe at around 2002 or so. Before that, Perl was "The Right Way To Do It" for web stuff. Of course, that's just my personal experience.

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user-pic Random observations that may in some way be related to Perl.