Perl, Python and Ruby (in 2003)

Posted in programming at 11:10 pm by danvk

By the end of summer 2003, I was tired of Perl and ready to pick up a new scripting language. The only question was which one to choose, Python or Ruby? I staged my own shootout to decide. A hard drive crash prevented me from putting it online at the time, but I recently found the writeup, which you can read here. The short and sweet:

First of all, I’ll throw Perl right out. I love the language, but not for object-oriented programming. To write a purely procedural program I’d take it over both Ruby and Python any day of the week, but not for OO.

If I had my choice in the matter, I would use Ruby. It’s [sic] syntax seems cleaner, and it’s object orientation doesn’t seem hackish in the least. It’s performance, however, left a lot to be desired. Granted, deep recursion probably isn’t the most widely used technique, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work. For a different sort of problem, I’d likely choose Ruby, though I’m worried I might have to switch over to Python if I ran into similar problems.

It’s interesting to read this in retrospect, knowing that i used Perl for the next three years before switching to Ruby this past summer. It was hard, but I developed a rule that’s helped. If I start writing a Perl program and it’s longer than two lines, I’ll switch over to Ruby. I’m typically glad I did. I’ve often wondered, in retrospect, why I didn’t switch back then.

First of all, why oh why did I have to use the Josephus problem? I’d been reading the Mozart/Oz book that summer and it seemed reasonable. I’d also just completed Rice’s Comp 212 class and thought that Objects were pretty neat. This test came from the Mozart book, used objects, and had a cool name.

Unfortunately, it also exposed a low stack limit in Ruby 1.6. If only I’d known about the ulimit command back then. If only Ruby 1.8 had been released on July 4, 2003 and not August 4. I can run the same Ruby program now and get up to N=547 with no difficulty. Recursion isn’t a particularly common technique in Ruby, so this test artificially punished it.

So why didn’t I follow my own advice and switch to Python back in 2003? Rather than throwing out Perl, I threw out OO. My post-Comp 212 interest in OO faded quickly, and it was back to Perl for those “purely procedural programs.”

1 Comment

  1. Paddy3118 said,

    February 13, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    You did however inspire this: http://paddy3118.blogspot.com/2009/02/comparison-of-python-solutions-to.html

    - Paddy.