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Python versus Parrot challenge, the Pie-thon

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Jarno Virtanen

Posts: 109
Nickname: jajvirta
Registered: May, 2003

Jarno Virtanen is a university student for life, it seems, and a part time software developer
Python versus Parrot challenge, the Pie-thon Posted: Jan 8, 2004 1:14 PM
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So, one of the more exciting events of the year 2004 might prove to be the Python versus Parrot challenge, Pie-thon. In short, the performance of executing Python bytecode in CPython and in Parrot virtual machine will be measured at O'Reilly Open Source Convention 2004, and the representative of the loser's side, either Guido van Rossum or Dan Sugalski, gets a pie thrown at his face. Additionally, the loser pays 10 dollars and a round of drinks to the winner. More importantly, it's a matter of pride, of course.

The whole thing seems to have started in January 2003 from (or that's what Dan said, at least) a discussion on Python developers' mailing list, python-dev, as our friend Fredrik called for some evidence on Parrot's performance and Dan answered with a $10 and a round of beer bet. The thread goes on to discuss about the topic, "a native code compiler for Python", with witty remarks from Python developers, such us our favorite, Tim Peters:

Indeed, I spent the first 15 years of my computer career writing optimizing compilers for a living, and it's *so* worth it that in 10+ years of Python development, nobody has offered to pay me so much as an insignificant fraction of how much it's worth.

Finally, Guido takes Dan up on the challenge:

I'm in. Given how low you set your stakes, I don't think you're very confident, so I'd like to call your bluff. :-)

And when Guido boasted with "Seriously, I expect Dan to lose without any effort on our part", Dan quickly raised the bets to the cream-pies-on-face, which Guido promptly accepted.

The challenge was announced at OSCON 2003 in the opening lightning talk, as Guido reported:

And let's not forget the opening lightning talk, which I presented together with Dan Sugalski: the Great Python Parrot Challenge. Dan believes that at OSCON 2004, Parrot will be able to execute Python bytecode faster than CPython can.

(See also Dan's post about the announcement of the challenge.)

Guido didn't seem too concerned about the challenge, stating only bluntly: "I don't give him a chance." Dan Sugalski, however, wasn't too pleased about this kind of attitude, and certainly seems to take the challenge seriously himself. (Well, Dan has a lot to do, naturally.)

Ultimately, of course, it's the numbers that count and recently Guido published the benchmark for the challenge (downloadable at, which is based on the rules laid out earlier.

Now we'll just have to wait.

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