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A look back on a year of Perl

by patgas (Friar)
on Nov 08, 2001 at 21:10 UTC ( #124099=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

It's November, 2001. While that may not strike anyone as immediately important, it means I've been fooling with Perl for about a year now. A few minutes ago I helped a coworker with a script I wrote, and I started to think back on all the cool things I've been able to do with Perl, and how I got started with it.

I remember sitting in a Barnes & Noble in Huntsville, Alabama, killing time while a housemate searched for a book. I was already a nerd and a programmer, but I was too young to know the UNIX way of life, or to do any real programming professionally. Because of that, most of my code was stuff I'd tinker around with in C or ASP. I didn't have a lot of motivation or direction. I had no feeling that I was part of a greater cause, but let's go back to the bookstore for a moment.

In my quest to entertain myself, I picked up the October 2000 issue of Wired, when an article about a cruise for Perl programmers caught my eye. I read the entire thing and was hooked. There was something to be a part of! Nobody mentioned boring string manipulation or function declaration, they were just doing cool stuff, and the article made it sound as if it were trivial.

So that night I discovered CPAN. It took me a few weeks to get around to figuring out how to get it set up, but eventually I was up and running. I wrote Hello, World, and... well, that was it. Somehow I was missing out on that cool stuff I read about in Wired. Needless to say, soon after that I started reading Perl Monks, and bought the Camel. It's been a pretty steady progression forward ever since.

I haven't contributed to CPAN yet; I've barely made a mark here at the Monastery. I can wield Perl well enough to make my life and job easier. I'm more confident in my programming, which I think is what led to my recent promotion to web developer. I can do cool stuff with the web as easily as it is to manipulate files. Problems I once thought impossible I can now boil down to simple 'grab, parse, output' solutions.

I'm still not entirely sure why I posted this, but I guess this is it: Thanks. Thanks to Perl, thanks to Larry, thanks to everyone here who's helped me. And in case you're interested in the Wired article I mentioned, I managed to find it online this morning:

The article that changed my life

"We're experiencing some Godzilla-related turbulence..."

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: A look back on a year of Perl
by maverick (Curate) on Nov 08, 2001 at 22:32 UTC
    First off, welcome aboard, and may your future years or Perl be even more enjoyable that your first.

    Everyone has their own 'How I discovered Perl' story.

    It was shown to me by a college friend (eventually turned co-worker) in his description of his current job. He was doing data conversions from medical billing systems. He described tons of data formatting changes, hundreds of fields per record, hundreds of thousands of records to process. At the time I only new C/C++, so my head was spinning with mallocs, link lists, deletes, dangling pointers, stack overflows, and debugging nightmares. When I asked him how long it took to debug the memory handling alone, he told me about this language he'd come across called Perl (version 4.0 at the time) that handled all that for you. He showed me some code, described how it worked and I was floored.

    So, I started learning how to write Perl. Invariably it looked like C code...and quite by accident I enlightened eduardo, jeffa and a few others to Perl along the way.

    I've never written any C professionally. I went to work for the company that my friend worked for. With one exception of one Java project, and a little Expect for glue in one project, I've written only Perl for the last six years.

    Any other monks that want to share their Perl stories?

    perl -l -e "eval pack('h*','072796e6470272f2c5f2c5166756279636b672');"

      well maverick, to be 100% precise jeffa was the first person to ever introduce me to perl. i remember we sat around with some "Online Perl Course" that if you completed it, they would send you a certification! (how exciting was that!) Well, I went to work for a company that needed web based "stuff"... and the first few generations of the products I developed for them were in perl. for reasons that i'll never understand, i decided that PHP was better for generation 2 (ugh) and servlets were better for generation 3... (ugh*2) :) i guess i've made my mistakes eh?

      so anyways, i knew that you were "good" at perl, and i remember sitting around the lab and doing "snippet" show and tell... where you would say: "see, this is how you unbuffer output, and this is why it is useful!" and I would say something incredibly clever like: "um... isn't there a module on CPAN for that?" :) hehehe... now, 5 years later, I can honestly say that I'm still floored when you say something like: "isn't that in $`?" :) curse you and your damned special variables... but hey, isn't it good to know that there is a publicly traded company out there that is still using something that started out as a recursive pr0n grabber?
Re: A look back on a year of Perl
by grinder (Bishop) on Nov 09, 2001 at 02:40 UTC

    I started using Perl in 1992. I was writing C++ code on a Sun, and had lots of data munging to do. I had been a heavy user of awk, sed and grep, and had written many a script to process data.

    I was aware that Perl existed; I suspect I first heard about it in DDJ or, more probably in Computer Language, in the "Exotic Language of the Month" column. Be that as it may, I tried to bootstrap myself, with what information I could glean from technical press articles and geek bulletin boards, like BIX.

    I didn't get very far with Perl on my own, and continued to write ever more ambitious awk scripts, and awk scripts to write awk scripts and so on.

    Then one day, one of the contractors on the project set aside a morning and taught another guy and me the basics of while( <> ), manipulating arrays and hashes and Perl's particular regexp language.

    That was the little push I needed to get me rolling, and from there I was able to do in Perl all sorts of things that otherwise would have required awful awk kluges (for instance, the awk model really starts to fall apart when you have more than one input and one output file), or fastidious error-prone C/C++.

    So that's part of the reason I'm here, to try and pay back some of the help I have received myself in the past.

    g r i n d e r
Re: A look back on a year of Perl
by jepri (Parson) on Nov 09, 2001 at 04:39 UTC
    I started perl a year ago when I was trying to get data out of a vendors database without using their client. Some how 'everyone knew perl was the best for the job'. After flailing around with DBI for a few weeks I wasn't so sure. Then I saw what I had to do in C and I believed.

    Just yesterday I made a work collegue go weak at the knees with my perl prowess. He had set aside two hours to manually change all user accounts over to a new group. 5 lines of perl later I left him wondering what to do with the next 2 hours. Perl is just too cool.

    I'm now busy trying to keep up with parrot so I can help develop Perl6. I recommend everyone to wander over to and have a look. It's going to be a blast.

    I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

      He had set aside two hours to manually change all user accounts over to a new group. 5 lines of perl later I left him wondering what to do with the next 2 hours.

      I would have thought that was obvious.

      perldoc perl :-)


Re: A look back on a year of Perl
by toma (Vicar) on Nov 09, 2001 at 10:06 UTC

    We had the web at work in 1994, using the Mosaic web browser and a proxy server. I learned of dynamic content from a French site that showed a different picture on reloads!

    I logged into our web server, identified the server process, and figured out where the server was installed. I browsed the server directory and found cgi-bin. I noticed files written in some sort of scripting language. I took home printouts of the scripts.

    I spread out the pages on the dining room table. I examined these straightforward yet curious programs for quite a while before looking up at the top of page one:


    I had tried to learn perl twice before but had failed both times. I would not fail again!

    My odyssey since then has almost, but not quite, exceeded my beliefs in the potiential of this blessed technology.

    It should work perfectly the first time! - toma

Re: A look back on a year of Perl
by TStanley (Canon) on Nov 09, 2001 at 06:38 UTC
    I started learning Perl in July of last year, when my boss gave me a script, and said change this. I did a search on the web for Perl, and this was the first link that showed up. And I haven't regretted a moment. I no longer work for that company now, but I still use Perl every day, much to the amazement of my new boss. And as a way of making a contribution back to the people who have helped me learn, I wrote a module which was accepted by CPAN just over a month ago. I hope to contribute more eventually, to both the Monestary and to the Perl community at large.

    Thomas Stanley
    There's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us
    about this script for Hamlet they've worked out
    -- Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Re (tilly) 1: A look back on a year of Perl
by tilly (Archbishop) on Nov 09, 2001 at 17:48 UTC
    We all have our anniversaries.

    To name two examples, this month marks my 4'th full year as a programmer. (But I will have to wait for January for my anniversary with using Perl.) And this month also marks merlyn's 40'th birthday.

Re: A look back on a year of Perl
by beretboy (Chaplain) on Nov 11, 2001 at 20:51 UTC
    Sniff, sniff ;-) That article changed my life too.

    "Sanity is the playground of the unimaginative" -Unknown

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