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docs/faq.pod - Parrot FAQ

This document is the main Parrot FAQ.

Parrot is a virtual machine for dynamic languages such as PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, Scheme, Tcl, etc. It compiles and executes bytecode, but is also designed to act as an interpreter.

The name "Parrot" started with Simon Cozens's April Fool's Joke ( where Larry Wall and Guido van Rossum announced the merger of the Perl and Python languages.

A year later, when we were looking for a name for our virtual machine that could run both Perl and Python, it seemed like a perfect fit.

No. Perl 6 is just one of the languages that will run on Parrot. For information about Perl 6 on Parrot (a.k.a Rakudo), see


Although Parrot is currently still under development, Parrot has been usable for a long time. The primary way to use Parrot is to write Parrot Intermediate Representation (PIR), described in PDD19. PIR is a high-level assembly language. See the examples directory.

While the languages that are shipped with our pre-release versions of parrot are in varying states of development, many of them are quite functional. See for information about the various languages that are targeting parrot.

While much of the build system currently uses perl 5.8.0, the parrot runtime is C89.

Stack-based virtual machines and interpreters (JVM, .NET, Perl5, etc) are both common and successful. However, register-based implementations give us a number of benefits: Less code needed to manipulate the stack frequently, access to decades of optimization for register-based hardware, and a minimization of stack overflow security problems. For many programmers, our register architecture just feels more normal than doing everything on a stack too.

The most common issues are:

Parrot uses the Artistic License 2.0, which is compatible with the GNU GPL. This means you can combine Parrot with GPL'ed code.

Parrot has to work on most of Perl 5's platforms, as well as a few of its own. Perl 5 runs on eighty platforms; Parrot must run on Unix, Windows, Mac OS (X and Classic), VMS, Crays, Windows CE, and Palm OS, just to name a few. Among its processor architectures will be x86, SPARC, Alpha, IA-64, ARM, and 68x00 (Palms and old Macs). If something doesn't work on all of these, we can't use it in core Parrot.

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