March 14, 2003

Now I know how the Lisp folks feel

And it's not a great feeling.

I've an outstanding bet with Guido van Rossum (and that is the right spelling for you non-Python folks. Lowercase van (not von, that's a name from another language) uppercase Rossum) that Parrot can execute pure Python bytecode faster than the Python interpreter can. I put the bet up to show that I was both serious and had some reason to back up some claims I was making about Parrot, as Parrot's not quite in a state to demonstrate the claims yet. While hard numbers are the best way to prove you're right, being willing to publicly embarrass yourself is a way to demonstrate that you're confident you've some backing for what you're saying.

Guido took me up on that bet, which is fine. Details of the challenge get announced at OSCON 2003 in Portland, OR, at the Python Lightning talks, with the actual showdown at OSCON 2004. (Also in Portland, so you have a chance to sample all the microbrews you didn't have time to drink in 2003. And Powell's--one should never forget Powell's) Guido isn't, as you might expect, taking the challenge at all seriously. He's even gone on record as such. (I don't have a link to the python-dev discussion handy, as I'm off-line) That doesn't bother me--I've met Guido a few times, and while I don't know him as such, I like him well enough, and I'm not in the least surprised. It's a very Guido thing, and that's fine. Who knows, maybe this is a Clever Plan to make me think he underestimates me so I underestimate him. Guido isn't, after all, stupid.

Some folks really don't care, and that's cool. There's more to a language engine than raw speed, and raw speed's not as important as other things to many. No problem.

What bugs me is the off-hand dismissal of the challenge, with the stated assumption that Parrot has no chance, and there's no way we can win. Not with any investigation, mind--none of the folks doing the dismissal have actually looked at Parrot, so far as I can tell. On the other hand, this may be a massive Cunning Ploy to lull me into a false sense of security, or annoy me into doing something stupid. (It's the Python Cabal at work again, I'm sure :) If so, they've got the arrogant dismissal thing down pretty well, and I'm prepared to be suitably impressed and embarrassed at OSCON 2004.

Boys and girls, let's get this straight. I'm only going to say this once.

Parrot is an order of magnitude faster than perl 5 doing equivalent things. Without enabling any extraordinary measures.

You know how Python's performance rates against Perl 5.

Do the math.

I now understand why the Lisp folks are so peevish--they get this sort of dismissal constantly, despite the demonstrable strengths of Lisp. (Which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I still find profoundly uncomfortable as a programming language. That, though, is between me and Lisp, and isn't any sort of judgment on the language itself)

Posted by Dan at March 14, 2003 03:59 PM | TrackBack (3)
Comments

There are still a couple things you're not feeling about Parrot that Lispers have been putting up with for a long, long time. They can be summed up with random quotes.

"Lisp? Isn't that, like, dead?"
The canonical response is: "Not any more than usual."

"Lisp? I remember that from school. It doesn't even have strings!"
Common Lisp has a standard that's larger than the documentation for most operating systems. And yes, it has strings.

"Lisp only works on huge systems."
Except of course, for where it runs on embedded systems in robots or the like.

"Nobody actually *writes* anything in Lisp."
Duh.

So be patient. A few years from now people will say the same thing about Parrot, and then you can rejoice in being equally downtrodden.

Posted by: James A. Crippen at August 12, 2003 11:02 PM

Don't feel bad about that feeling of dismissal that you're getting. I would bet that you already stated the reason for why most Python people have dismissed your claims. Actually, I shouldn't say dismissed so much as to say that they haven't paid that much attention.

> Some folks really don't care, and that's cool. There's more to a language engine than raw speed, and raw speed's not as important as other things to many. No problem.

I think that the above statement explains it all, really.

Posted by: Rene Horn at September 15, 2003 02:24 AM

PS If you make Python faster, that'd be great! However, don't forget about that statement.

Posted by: Rene Horn at September 15, 2003 02:28 AM

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Posted by: dc at September 15, 2003 03:29 AM

Of course, you miss the obvious ploy on the part of the Python folks. Perhaps they're trying to taunt you into doing such a good job that Python gets a speed boost... after all, if all it costs you to get a faster runtime is a pie in the face, $10 and a round of drinks... I say taunt away and pat the smart guy who wrote the code on the back if it works!

Of course, I'm partial to Parrot already, so perhaps I'm biased...

Posted by: Aaron Sherman at March 2, 2004 04:17 PM