Chapter Nineteen
Combining Perl and JavaScript

The excitement currently making the rounds on the web in late 1996 has been Sun Microsystems Java®. And indeed it is a very exciting technology.

Being able to consolidate applications on a server and deliver stuff to dumber boxes and even TV sets has great marketing potential.

Java, by the way, is not JavaScript. Java is a server-side language while JavaScript is a client-side language (meaning that it is downloaded to the visitor, compiled on the visitor's computer and then executed on the visitor's computer)

Folks who really do a lot of stuff on the web, however, know that an even more powerful and facile open language exists for server-side applications.

That language is Perl, whose primary inventor and developer, Larry Wall, has made it a totally free and open language for all to use. (Ever notice that making stuff proprietary really slows its implementation?)

The real power of this exciting .cgi language is extremely difficult to convey to non-programmers, but for web applications, there is little doubt that it is head and shoulders above any other language.

IS department heads are suspicious of Perl, because it doesn't have a company providing technical support.

Technical support is a mythical service that never has existed and never will, but IS department heads never have understood that having a phone number to call does not equate to having technical support, but results in lowered productivity by the poor folks on hold waiting for an "answer" that never really comes.

Perl, on the other hand, has more real technical support than any other language. That support is provided by USENET groups all over the world - folks like yourself who have been there and are willing to lend you a hand, if you aren't a real jerk.

Post a question and you can be sure someone will know the answer and willingly share it with you. It's called the culture of the Web, something somewhat alien to a lot of corporate types.

Of course, that technical support is free -- enough to make any IS manager suspicious as hell. "If it doesn't cost anything, what good is it?" (No, I don't know your IS manager personally - really)

There is a tendency among folks everywhere to believe that the more something costs, the more it is worth.

If I charge you ten times as much for my bottle of aspirin because it has my name brand on it, you'll probably be dumb enough to buy it. "If it costs ten times more, it must be ten times better." Never mind that it is exactly the same thing. Exactly.

A second tendency of folks everywhere is to play sheep. If 90% of the world is using this computer, it must be the best. No. It just means that one bunch of folks are better at marketing than another.

But us folks in the cubicles who actually have to do the stuff the managers want know better. If you want me to do graphics, you'd better let me use my Macintosh®. Yeah, I can do 'em on the Windows 95® machine... But do you want me to be productive? Oh, you do...

The truth about the power of Perl is simple. You can write, index and be delivering data from a database in the time it would take you to define parameters with one of the "popular" and expensive name brand database packages.

And not only that, the delivery will be hundreds of times faster with fewer "bugs". The "bugs" that do appear are of your own making and can be fixed by you. You don't have to wait for a "fix" that "will only be available in the new version update".

© Copyright 1997, John H. Keyes