Re: Why exactly is Perl any worse than Python?
> Yes. But for the practical purposes of this discussion (?), the vast majority of Perl use cases is pattern matching and substitution.
I'd suggest that that's unfair, and I'd point out that most of the substantial corpus of add-ons in CPAN can't be invoked directly from a search which implies that most developers recognise that Perl- once it had started to move away from its AWK heritage- was something more general.
It certainly has exemplary pattern-handling capabilities for something spawned in the 1990s. So exemplary in fact that most languages developed since are at least as comprehensive in that area.
> > Python's major problem is the significance of tabs and indentation [ ... ]
> That. We tried this once with Make. Everyone hated, and still hates, it. But no, Python had to do it again, because once is not enough. And it has nothing to do with helping code readability.
Actually, we tried it with FORTRAN which required that ordinary statements started in col 7. And in ALGOL and COBOL which might have been more relaxed about start column but in most early implementations still reserved a chunk of each input record for a line number.
"Some [preferred] the use of spaces for indentation, in the style of Python or Haskell. However, we have had extensive experience tracking down build and test failures caused by cross-language builds where a Python snippet embedded in another language, for instance through a SWIG invocation, is subtly and invisibly broken by a change in the indentation of the surrounding code. Our position is therefore that, although spaces for indentation is nice for small programs, it doesn't scale well, and the bigger and more heterogeneous the code base, the more trouble it can cause." -- Rob Pike https://talks.golang.org/2012/splash.article
And finally, for another 2d worth, I'd add that Dijkstra's comment about "coding bums" AIUI echoed John McCarthy's words and sentiment which were originally inspired by a certain type of student who obsessed about shaving an instruction or so off a sequence of operations in the same way that a downhill "ski bum" obsessed about shaving a second off his run.
I'm quite sure that you can write impenetrable code in any language, and would suggest that if a language comes along that prevents you from turning a hard-to-understand algorithm into a difficult-to-follow instruction sequence that there's probably some severe downsides to it. But while I'd certainly agree that some of the things in Perl give sloppy workers much more rope than they deserve, I think that the real problem is managerial: most fields of applied science /require/ adequate documentation and review, and the complexity and pervasiveness of computer software makes that requirement even more important.