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On Dec 18th, 2021, Perl turned 34!1 Here’s how it all started:

a “replacement” for awk and sed

[ Perl is kind of designed to make awk and sed semi-obsolete. This posting will include the first 10 patches after the main source. The following description is lifted from Larry’s manpage. –r$ ]

Perl is a interpreted language optimized for scanning arbitrary text files, extracting information from those text files, and printing reports based on that information. It’s also a good language for many system management tasks. The language is intended to be practical (easy to use, efficient, complete) rather than beautiful (tiny, elegant, minimal). It combines (in the author’s opinion, anyway) some of the best features of C, sed, awk, and sh, so people familiar with those languages should have little difficulty with it. (Language historians will also note some vestiges of csh, Pascal, and even BASIC-PLUS.) Expression syntax corresponds quite closely to C expression syntax. If you have a problem that would ordinarily use sed or awk or sh, but it exceeds their capabilities or must run a little faster, and you don’t want to write the silly thing in C, then perl may be for you. There are also translators to turn your sed and awk scripts into perl scripts.

Perl has a very special place in my heart, as it was one of the first programming languages that I learned in the early days of my career. In 2005 I was even teaching Perl to students at the Technical University of Sofia, which was my very first experience as an educator. Perl taught me a lot about the virtues of programming, text processing, regular expressions, scripting and writing unreadable code. I wouldn’t be the same programmer (person?) without it!

I still remember fondly the days when web development was all about CGI and Perl! While the language lost traction in recent years, I think that its legacy in alive and well - most notably as a replacement for sed and awk, and in Ruby.2 Happy birthday, Perl!

  1. Depending on what you consider the birthday, that is. The first Perl commit was on Dec 18, 1987, but Perl 1.0 was released on Feb 1, 1988. 

  2. Not to mention the countless other programming languages that have modeled their regular expression support after Perl.