Fundamental differences (was: Choosing Perl/Python for my particular niche)

Cameron Laird claird at
Sat Mar 27 18:23:55 CET 2004

In article <1080406261.496998 at yasure>, Donn Cave <donn at> wrote:
>I personally find sed more frustrating than useful, for anything
>past the common one-line application.  But I know of a very
>accomplished sed programmer for whom it's the other way around -
>not only can he solve complex problems in sed, he once professed
>to be baffled by the common structured-procedural languages.
>I reckon him to be a person of extraordinary intellect, because
>of his exceptional ability with sed, but he was pretty firmly
>convinced that he couldn't do much with a programming language
>like C or Python.  Of course not a programmer by trade. I believe
>he never did go on to prove himself wrong on that.
>In my opinion, it's a matter of very deep learning about how to
>solve problems.  Most of us were introduced to programming with
>procedural languages - BASIC, assembler, Pascal, FORTRAN and so
>on, which for all their differences are essentially the same in
>principle when it comes to solving a problem.  We can move from
>one of these languages to another fairly easily, but not sed -
>what's the point of such a useless language!  But here are these
>few, mostly non-programmers, who started with sed and can do
>amazing things with it.  We see a crippling lack of features,
>where they see spartan elegance, because at a very fundamental
>level they get it and we don't.
It's only in the past year that I've chosen to use A Spreadsheet
twice in a month, although I was in the first wave of VisiCalc
practitioners.  Spreadsheets mostly annoy me, while I recognize
millions of people accomplish things with 'em they'd never achieve
otherwise.  You are, of course, absolutely correct, Donn.  One of
my Usenet amusements is to check in on comp.lang.awk seasonally;
every time I do so, it seems someone has come up with a new solu-
tion for least-square regressions with sed, or teaching awk to play
chess, or such.

I've given up making the time to feel humbled by such.  Mostly I
just take these as lessons in how great it is that there are dif-
ferent minds on the planet, 'cause it sure wouldn't work for us
all to be doing the same thing.

Cameron Laird <claird at>

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