Working notes from the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism

If all you have is duct tape, everything starts to look like a duct

From Perl, the first postmodern computer language, by the Practical Extraction and Reporting Language (Perl)‘s creator, Larry Wall.

“Or think about shell programming, and reductionism. How many times have we heard the mantra that a program should do one thing and do it well?

Well…Perl does one thing, and does it well. What it does well is to integrate all its features into one language. More importantly, it does this without making them all look like each other. Ducts shouldn’t look like girders, and girders shouldn’t look like ducts. Neither of those should look like water pipes, and it’s really important that water pipes not look like sewer pipes. Or smell like sewer pipes. Modernism says that we should make all these things look the same (and preferably invisible). Postmodernism says it’s okay for them to stick out, and to look different, because a duct ought to look like a duct, and a sewer pipe ought to look like a sewer pipe, and hammer ought to look like a hammer, and a telephone ought to look like either a telephone, or a Star Trek communicator. Things that are different should look different.

You’ve all heard the saying: If all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. That’s actually a Modernistic saying. The postmodern version is: If all you have is duct tape, everything starts to look like a duct. Right. When’s the last time you used duct tape on a duct? “

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