Perl and Camels

camellogos Fri 4 December 2020

The issue of logos regularly comes up with respect to Perl, and the problem of O'Reilly's ownership then does as well, with vague descriptions of the situation. I wanted to know what the real situation is, so I asked Tim O'Reilly.

The history of the camel

In 1991, O'Reilly published Programming Perl, at that time the only book about Perl. It was the Perl book. It's the book I learned from.

At that time, all of O'Reilly's tech books had pictures of animals on the cover, and Perl's had a camel. I don't know the story to how they picked a camel for Perl, but it seems appropriate.

Ever since that time, there has been an association of Camels with Perl. Like me, you may have a soft-toy camel (perhaps acquired from Liz and Wendy), and many Perl Mongers put a camel on the table as a signal.

Other logos

There have been other logos associated with Perl at various times: an onion (a reference to Larry's "State of the Onion" talks, given in the past), and a velociraptor.

The Perl Foundation seems to be using the onion as its logo, which for me rules it out as a logo. Regardless of TPF's usage, I wouldn't care for an onion as our logo.

O'Reilly's position

Over the years I'd heard various versions of O'Reilly's position with respect to camels and Perl, but I couldn't find an official statement. So I contacted Tim O'Reilly and asked him.

Here's what he said:

I think we can live with those constraints, but I appreciate that some people will want a logo free of limitations. I think the long association of camels with Perl is worth the trade-off.

A new camel

I think we can come up with a new camel, which we are free to use as the logo for Perl. The logo should say something about not only our language, but our community as well. Friendly and welcoming is what I'd like both to say. Something like this:

This camel was created by a graphic artist, who does this sort of a thing for a living. I'm not saying this should be our new logo, I'm saying that we could come up with something like this and adopt it as our logo.

Yes, there's a language called Caml, and OCaml, both of which use Camels for their logo, but Perl has had the camel association for 29 years now, and even if we pick a different logo, the camel association will still remain.

I'm suggesting this to be pragmatic. We've got better things to spend our money and energy on, and the constraint with respect to books isn't such a big deal. There's an offical logo for Python, so I looked on Amazon to see how many books use that logo: 6 of the first 20 books I saw had the logo on the cover. When I ordered them on best reviews, that dropped to 2 in 20.

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