April 7, 2008
I am worried about something I never thought I would have to worry about: that the Perl hackers of the world might be fading away.
When I first started out in the business, everyone knew Perl because that’s pretty much all there was for making websites with; plus Perl was already pre-eminent in the operations space. You could use Perl for grungy sysadmin chores, whip out necessary tools like Bugzilla, and produce elaborate all-singing all-dancing public CGI scripts too… there was really no downside. It was so ubiquitous in the mid-90’s that we used to joke that when industrial society finally broke down, its very last gasp would be the final running of some Perl cronjob somewhere. Après Perl, le déluge.
But I think now people are having to specialize much earlier in their careers. Young devs don’t necessarily see the same bet-hedging value to learning Perl — heck, I’m sort of convinced young webdevs these days don’t see much point to learning anything about systems and their administration (whippersnappers, grump). Probably the young pups of today see much more value in Ruby on Rails than Perl. Today learning Perl is a CHOICE, and that choice is to definitely go down the ops/tools path rather than the public-facing dev path… like shell scripting, I guess.
Since every web operation of any size is ultimately held together under the covers by Perl scripts and duct tape, I’m wondering what it means for the industry to see the pool of junior Perl initiates shrink rather dramatically. Perhaps in 10 years Ruby will be the grungy sysadmin tool of choice?