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Do the masses know about perl?

by dimar (Curate)
on Jun 17, 2004 at 17:54 UTC ( #367701=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

A figure in contemporary American social criticism once opined, "If it hasn't been on TV or the Movies, then as far as the masses are concerned, it doesn't exist."

The proposition is obviously dubious, but this raises a question. Java, Unix, Windows et al have been mentioned in the popular media in various contexts. Can Perl boast the same success in piercing the veil of public awareness? Has anyone ever seen or heard a reference to perl in 1) a motion picture; 2) a television show or tv news broadcast (other than some strictly technical program); or 3) a book or other popular media context that was not intended for a technial audience? (e.g., comic book, novel, biography etc)

Very interested to know if it has a toehold in the mindshare of at least a tiny percentage of non-technically-oriented Americans (or any other country).

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by Fletch (Chancellor) on Jun 17, 2004 at 18:00 UTC

    Portions of some of Tom C's FAQ code appeared on screen in Sphere, as documented in the perl timeline (scroll down a bit to see the '98 entry).

    Update: And then there was the perl implementation of Schneier's Solitaire in perl in Cryptonomicon ( ISBN 0060512806 ); of course one might haggle about that book being geared at a technical audience. :)

    And another one: A Hymn Before Battle ( ISBN 0671318411 ), in which the main character is an ex-Army Sgt who's become a webmonkey and is described in passing as "a junior associate web consultant with an Atlanta web-page design firm. What this meant in practice was that he worked eight to twelve hours a day with HTML, Java and Perl." It's only a passing mention, but . . .

Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by Aragorn (Curate) on Jun 17, 2004 at 21:05 UTC
    Even if reference appeared clearly in a movie or on TV, I don't think "the masses" could value it for what it is. It would still be something that would maybe bring a smile to a geeks' lips, but I don't think the average person will care.

    "Windows" is something that a lot of people know, and is recognizable. The largest part of the computer-using population is not a programmer who would understand the reference to a computer language.

    I think it's a bit like the appearance of W. Richard Stevens' book "UNIX Network Programming" in one of the Wayne's World movies. The geeks tought it was fun (I did anyway), but I don't think the average viewer understood the reference.


      Don't forget about Nmap making an appearance in a scene from the Matrix Reloaded. I'm sure that gave more people a stiffy than that crappy Swordfish movie (well except for the part where Halle Berry gets 'er kit off).
      @a = ("a".."z"," ","-","\n");foreach $b ( 12,0,17,10,24,12,14,14,13,26,8,18,26,0,26, 22,0,13,13,0,27,1,4,26,15,4,17,11,26,7,0, 2,10,4,17) {print $a[$b]};print $a[28];
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Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by castaway (Parson) on Jun 17, 2004 at 18:50 UTC
    Who are 'the masses' here?
    Honestly I think some languages that have been over medialised have more suffered than benefited. (sorry, pure supposition here, nothing to support my theory). Do the guys who run the china place down the road need to know about perl? Or do you mean budding programmers? These I would hope will here about perl should it ever be relevant to something they do.

    Not to be elitist or anything, but do we want the whole world knocking on our door? I'd prefer *real programmers* (definition left for the reader), than people just trying to create their website and not needing it anywhere else.. (Still September, isnt it? :)


      Not to be elitist or anything,
      Don't sweat it. As they said in Get Your War On:
      If 'elitist' just means 'not the dumbest motherfucker in the room,' I'll be an elitist!

      You are what you think.

Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by etcshadow (Priest) on Jun 17, 2004 at 18:21 UTC
    An interesting corolary question is: what have you not heard of, because it was not on TV, etc (or not a topic of discussion on perlmonks :-D ).

    Ever heard of ruby, for example?

    ------------ :Wq Not an editor command: Wq
Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Jun 18, 2004 at 13:32 UTC
    Does it matter? How many dance forms have you never heard of because it wasn't on TV, or you weren't looking at the time it was. Do you think that not knowing about it is a big loss? Do you think that dancers on discuss this? ;-)

    I don't know much about hairdressing, law cases, making play-dooh, or the sex life of dung beetles. I don't blame TV for never mentioning it. Nor do I think it's a big loss for my life. (It could very well be a big loss - but don't tell me. If I don't know, I won't feel sad).


      Well it does not matter whether the average Joe knows about Perl, but it does matter whether the average nontechnical manager has ever heard of it. If they always hear about Java, but have never heard of Perl, how do you think they'll react if one guy suggests implementing something in Java and the other in Perl?

      I may not be paining my flat myself, but if the mister painter asks me whether I want him to use brand A or B and I've heard a lot good about A (and have no way of telling whether it's true or not) and never heard of B, I'll probably want A. And even more likely if he tells me B is much cheaper.

      Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.
         -- Rick Osborne

        If someone who calls himself a "master" painter asks me whether use brand A or brand B, without telling me about the advantages and disavantages of brands A and B, I'd reconsider my hiring skills. He's the expert, and I should value his opinion more than what I might have heard on the Discovery channel.
        If they always hear about Java, but have never heard of Perl, how do you think they'll react if one guy suggests implementing something in Java and the other in Perl?
        So, Java first got the mass-media coverage, and then became a popular language? My memory might be screwed up, but I think that Java established itself as a popular language without the "masses" knowing about Java.


        AFAIK Java did get a lot of media coverage thanks to Sun's funding from the very beginning. Sure most of that was in the IT and business oriented periodics, but when it comes to hype I do believe you'd have a hard task to find a comparable case. But maybe here speaks my strong dislike of Java.

        Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.
           -- Rick Osborne

Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by Anonymous Monk on Jun 18, 2004 at 03:38 UTC
    Would you want "the masses" to know about Perl? Look what happened to the word, "hacker" once the media got hold of it and perverted it.
Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by EvdB (Deacon) on Jun 18, 2004 at 09:25 UTC
    DeCSS is a sort of example - media interest in a Perl program (one invocation at least) without explicitly mentioning Perl. Perhaps it would be better to ask "what has been done with Perl that has gotten attention?"

    --tidiness is the memory loss of environmental mnemonics

Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by delegatrix (Scribe) on Jun 29, 2004 at 14:08 UTC
    In an episode of 'Sports Night' on ABC, Jeremy explains how he can write a perl script to automatically vote in a web poll on the popularity of the anchors.
Re: Do the masses know about perl?
by Wassercrats on Jun 17, 2004 at 19:29 UTC
    If I had to review scripts for a motion picture company and saw a reference to a programming language that's as common as Java or C, I be reluctant to keep even that reference in. Perl would be out of the question except in some unusual cases where it's mentioned along with more popular computer languages. Part of the problem would be that non-programmers would hear "Perl" and think "pearl" or the name "Pearl".

    Perl shouldn't be anyone's first language anyway, so it's not a good idea to introduce it to people who haven't already heard of it from a programming background.

      I don't think a Lamborghini Countache should be anyone's first car, either, but it doesn't surprise me that people (even non-drivers) have heard of it. Being aware of something and some of its abilities is not the same thing as being a user.

      We're not really tightening our belts, it just feels that way because we're getting fatter.

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