Sometimes I think we in the IT industry forget that the point of computing is to make the lives of human beings easier; to do things for us and automate our work; not to introduce extra tasks (this premise is the thrust of IBM’s Autonomic campaign). I was reminded of this the other day when I was writing a set of Perl scripts to download podcasts for me by tidying up the output of goldenpod. I wrote these in Perl because, despite its arcane syntax, it is fabulous for the kind of ‘glue’ job I was doing: taking the output of another program, modifying it, doing some tidy-up on my filesystem, etc. This is primarily because of the rich set of modules available, which in my experience dwarfs any other language. It took an hour or two to write, but now that I’m done, it’s rock-solid stable and does its work silently without my intervention, saving me time in the long run.
Most people, of course, wouldn’t write their own podcast-downloading script in Perl (or know how). But because a lot of software I use is out-of-the-box, the fact that I can program my computer to do jobs for me, the way I want things, is something that I think about rarely, even as a professional software engineer.