Ancient battles

I came across this image today and was struck by the opposite paths of Perl and Python.  Specifically, how they cross over in late 2007 and early 2008.

In 2007 I started my first job post-college at a neuroimaging lab.  In order to handle the vast quantities of data generated by the MRI machine, and in order to clean up and analyze the data, I had to learn how to program.  This was generally a self-guided process, but I did turn for help to two people: Dennis, the lab’s sysadmin, who was a loyal Perl user, and Paul, the fellow research assistant I shared an office with, who was a big Python enthusiast.  Every time I showed Dennis a piece of code I’d started with Paul’s help, he’d grumble, “You should’ve used Perl!”  Paul said the opposite: “This would be so much easier in Python.”  The two of them would engage in endless debates about the benefits of each language – debates which I, as someone with no computer science background, had no ability to understand.  The experience turned me off of Python, Perl, and people who fight about which programming language is better.

Looking at this graph, I can see now why Dennis and Paul argued so fiercely.  It seems like every adherent Python won came at the expense of Perl, with Python overtaking Perl for the first time during that year.   In 2014, Perl has fallen off the bottom of the chart, while Python has climbed to third place.  It’s also my default language, so Paul/Python won that particular battle.

I might understand the arguments now, but I’m still sorry they happened.  Turned off to Python (temporarily) and Perl (permanently it seems), I ended up focusing my energy on learning Matlab, one of the world’s most expensive proprietary programming languages.  In this way, I was the biggest loser.

One Thought on “Ancient battles

  1. Makes sense; Python and Perl and Ruby are largely fighting for the exact same niche as general languages, though Ruby has its “Ruby on Rails” territory.

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