Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Perl is 25 Years Old

On December 18, 1987, Larry Wall released version 1.000 of Perl. It would have been about five years later than I encountered it, in the Perl 4 days, back before objects and "my" variables. I didn't know about this object-oriented scripting stuff when Perl 5 came out, and installed it mostly because somebody in the contracting office wanted to run SATAN, an early vulnerability scanner, against the network

Perl 4 amazed me when I discovered that one could

while (<>) {
  if /^\s*(\d+)\s+([a-z].+)\s*$/i) {
    do_something($1, $2);

What? I didn't have to use lex and yacc if I wanted to parse a file? And it also handled binary data efficiently (in terms of my time, not the machine's) with pack and unpack. And then there was DBI, and XML, and Net.

Perl has been saving me time these many years, and saving time for many people that I work with. I got home Friday night at a reasonable hour largely because of a Perl script written Thursday and modified in a hurry Friday when the input was not as expected. I am grateful to Larry Wall and all the CPAN contributors who have made the lives of many thousands of programmers so much more productive.

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