Perl, the first postmodern computer language

Recently I came across  a wonderful speech by Larry Wall, the Guru of Perl. Here is the original article

Some of the interesting  line in this talk are

This would bother a Modernist, because a Modernist has to decide whether this is true OR that is true. The Modernist believes in OR more than AND. Postmodernists believe in AND more than OR. In the very postmodern Stephen Sondheim musical, _Into the Woods_, one of the heroines laments, “Is it always or, and never and?” Of course, at the time, she was trying to rationalize an adulterous relationship, so perhaps we’d better drop that example. Well, hey. At least we can use Perl as an example. In Perl, AND has higher precedence than OR does. There you have it. That proves Perl is a postmodern language.

Another one

While I’m thinking about the next thing to say in my talk, let me say a bit more about deconstructionism. I do not view deconstructionism as a form of postmodernism so much as I view deconstructionism as the bridge between Modernism and postmodernism. Modernism, as a form of Classicalism, was always striving for simplicity, and was therefore essentially reductionistic. That is, it tended to take things to pieces. That actually hasn’t changed much. It’s just that Modernism tended to take one of the pieces in isolation and glorify it, while postmodernism tries to show you all the pieces at once, and how they relate to each other.

This  remark on so called enlightenment and modern thinking of earlier generatiom

The funny thing is, Modernism itself was a kind of hammer, and it made everything look like something to be hammered. The protest movement of the ’60s was Modernistic: “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer all over this land.” The focus was always on the nail, or on whatever it was that was getting pounded. And many things did get hammered in the Modern age. Architectural beauty, for one. That one is obvious just by looking at the skyline of any major city. It’s easy to tell which buildings were built in the 50’s and 60’s. They’re the ones that look like boxes. When we first saw them, we thought they looked very modern. Well, they did. But when the Seattle First National Bank was built in, you guessed it, Seattle, we all made jokes about how it looked like the box the Space Needle came in. At least the Space Needle was cute, kinda like the Jetsons were cute. But the Space Needle wasn’t really very functional, unless you go in for rotating restaurants.

In fact, at many different levels, Modernism brought us various kinds of dysfunction. Every cultural institution took a beating. Government took a beating. Schools took a beating. Certainly the family took a beating. Everyone took a beating, because Modernism was about attacking problems. Modernism was the hammer. (I’d like to make a pun on hammer and sickle here, but I’m not sure what it would be. Certainly Russia was more hammered than we were by Modernism, in the cloak of Marxism. I know what it means to be hammered, but I’m still trying to figure out what it would mean to be more sickled. Hmm. Unless that’s talking about the Grim Reaper. Russia has a lot of experience with that too.) Anyway, back to our talk. Modernism oversimplifies. Modernism puts the focus squarely on the hammer and the nail.

This one on god

True greatness is measured by how much freedom you give to others, not by how much you can coerce others to do what you want. I remember praying a prayer when I was very young, not much more than a baby myself. “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” Well, I’m here to say amen to that. God’s greatness and goodness are measured by the fact that he gives us choices. He doesn’t require us to thank him for our food. (In case you hadn’t noticed.) God is not a Modernist. He doesn’t view us as nails. God expects us to behave like carpenters. Indeed, he gave us a carpenter as an example.

So I think God is postmodern. He has his own ideas of what rules, and what sucks, and he doesn’t expect everyone else to agree with him. Mind you, he likes it when people agree with him. I like it when people agree with me about Perl. But I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Of course, some of my loyal followers expect everyone to agree with me. I try to think of it as an endearing characteristic. Personally, I think the Perl slogan, There’s More Than One Way To Do It, applies outside of Perl as well as inside. I explicitly give people the freedom not to use Perl, just as God gives people the freedom to go to the devil if they so choose.


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