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What got you interested in Perl?

by coolmichael (Deacon)
on Dec 29, 2001 at 03:59 UTC ( #135013=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I've just been curious. I know there is a huge range of perl experience and knowledge (not necessarily the same thing) here in the monastery.

For me, it was about two years ago now. I was doing some volunteer work for a students' society, and they wanted to look into online voting. I whipped up a quick and dirty cgi script to handle taking the votes and keeping track of who had voted. I did it with one flat file for the votes and one dbm file for tracking who had voted. I'm surprised that the damn thing works, now that I look back at it.

I'm embarassed to admit it, but, there was no taint checking, or warnings or strict. I didn't use CGI. Now that I think back to it, there was one hell of a race condition (all the votes were going into one flat file) that never even occured to me. Then again, I didn't know anything about databases, DBI, or even unix. It was an interesting project, that taught me the very basics of perl syntax.

Perl 4 syntax actually.

I am very happy about how my perl ability has grown over the last two years. And, I think I owe a lot of it to PerlMonks, and Ovid's CGI course.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by merlyn (Sage) on Dec 29, 2001 at 05:21 UTC
    When Perl 1 came along, I downloaded it and compiled it, but decided it wasn't powerful enough to replace my mishmash of sed/awk/grep/emacs-lisp scripts.

    Then Perl 2 was posted, and I started playing with it. While the occasional odd task still needed to be shelled out, I found myself not only writing new things with this new language, but even rewriting some of my older functioning things just for grins.

    And as I was cruising comp.unix.questions, I started noticing (and posting) how many of those things could be done in one line of Perl, or at least far fewer lines than the other traditional solutions. It got to the point where I was posting so many Perl answers there that people started saying "no Perl" in their questions!

    And after that fateful post in September 1989 in which I suggested a book on Perl, and O'Reilly contacted me to get things rolling (resulting in the Camel book 16 months later), I was thrust into the Perl limelight.

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by grep (Monsignor) on Dec 29, 2001 at 07:09 UTC
    I was a *nix sysadmin that was in love the *nix shells, but found they could be a bit limiting. I used 'sed' sometimes, but secretly hated it. Used 'awk' a little more, but secretly hated it also. So I kept hearing about this language called perl that was already on my machine. I did a 'man perl'. Hmm.. some other man pages. After thinking, "well this is what I really wanted out of sed, awk, sort and yes grep, I went and picked up Learning Perl and Programming Perl the next day.

    What used to be annoying SysAdmin stuff was fun again. My days seemed less stressful, the sun seemed somewhat brighter (or was that the glow of my VT320).

    grep> cd pub grep> more beer
Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by mpeppler (Vicar) on Dec 29, 2001 at 05:15 UTC
    I'd recently started using a Sun 386i (SunOS 4.0.2) after a few years of MS-DOS, and was somewhat confused by the various Unix tools. I went to the Software Development conference in early February 1990 (in Oakland), and listened to a presentation on Perl (3.something) by Rob Kolstad.

    And then I saw the light :-)

    When I got back I managed to get perl installed using ftpmail (no IP connectivity), and then when Larry added usersubs I started working on the very first version of sybperl during the summer of 1990 - perl looked to me as such a perfect tool to write simple database management tools (an opinion that I still hold - although I tend to write rather more complex systems these days :-)


Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by Juerd (Abbot) on Dec 29, 2001 at 04:15 UTC
    I knew BASIC, but installed Linux and didn't find a good BASIC compiler for it. So i was searching for another language. I found perl and loved it.
    It was Perl 4 at first, but then, I installed Perl 5. It took a while before I realised Perl 5 offered references and objects so I was still coding ugly code :)

    2;0 juerd@ouranos:~$ perl -e'undef christmas' Segmentation fault 2;139 juerd@ouranos:~$

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by talexb (Canon) on Dec 29, 2001 at 07:46 UTC
    After writing file utilities in C (DOS and PC-MOS) for quite a while, it became a little tiresome to re-write the same code for opening a file, grabbing the command line arguments, opening a file for read, opening another for write, doing freads and fwrites using malloc'ed buffers, all to do One Thing or Another to a file (ASCII or binary data).

    Eventually I came across awk, bought the book, loved it, used the tool, loved it, but eventually put it aside when I changed jobs.

    Then one day at my new job I was looking at a spreadsheet containing database model information (tables, fields, data types, dependencies), and I thought to myself, gee, I really need an awk script to fiddle with this. Then I got to thinking about Perl, downloaded Perl 5 (fairly new at the time) and tried it out, and was astounded by the power that was available.

    Eventually I had a series of four scripts feeding one into another, parsing the memory model data, doing cross-checking, building SQL create table statements, checking for indexes and foreign keys, and even ordering the table create statements so that the dependent tables got built after the primary tables. Very, very cool, especially when the director told me I'd hacked together logic that would normally cost many thousands of dollars to duplicate with a commercial product.

    Three months later I was working on my first web site and trying to learn everything I could about Perl. The last two YAPC::North America's have filled my head with amazing ideas. What a cool culture, and I still have much to learn.

    Ahem .. uh, good question.

    --t. alex

    "Excellent. Release the hounds." -- Monty Burns.

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by FoxtrotUniform (Prior) on Dec 29, 2001 at 04:04 UTC

    I picked up the Camel and the Llama long before I actually started learning Perl. Figured they'd come in handy (my original plan was to put together a scripted website, just like "everyone else") someday. That "someday" happened to be near the end of a machine learning project, when I had to massage the outputs of three different gene-finding programs into something similar. That was about eight months ago.

      Before Perl, i only knew BASIC and VB. When I started webdesigning, i got significantly angry because there were all these programs out there (message boards, voting booths, form processors, etc) that i couldn't quite customize to my own tastes. I can't actually believe i started creating my own scripts, but that's what it's come to. It's been about 1.5 years now, and i think i have a firm grasp on the language. I'm not advanced yet, still have a long way to go. But i love the language and its style.
Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by jlongino (Parson) on Dec 29, 2001 at 11:41 UTC
    I don't recall exactly when I wrote my first Perl program because it's been at least four or five years ago but I do remember the reasons that it came to be my programming language of choice.

    I've mostly work in a sysadmin capacity and would frequently push the limits of the various languages available. When we (at work) first got our first unix boxen we faced a radical shift in languages from our old IBM mainframe (rexx, PL/1, SAS and Fortran 66). With unix, we now had to shift from rexx to csh, PL/1 and Fortran 66 to Fortran 77 but we still had SAS. Nobody in our department had any formal training in C or C++.

    As you can imagine, writing interactive database applications in Fortran can be frustrating. Once the unix boxen were in place, we had to setup some xyplexes and then we needed to do Radius time accounting. My boss did a little searching and determined that there were programs already written in Perl that would do what we needed (with modifications of course). A superb (not to mention free) programming language, a wealth of books, docs and CPAN too?

    Gradually, almost every program or script of importance on our systems were rewritten in Perl. Our library of Perl books has increased and I've never had a request for new books denied (as I usually can demonstrate a real need for them).

    I wish I'd known about the Monastery when it first started since my Perl skills would be triple what they are now.


Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by shadox (Priest) on Dec 29, 2001 at 11:24 UTC
    It was in the time when me and Chainsaw were working in the college, we used to work there as sysadmin of about 30 old sparc station 5, one day we wanted to learn something new, so we did decide to learn Perl, so we did read a few tutorials and learned something, not much. That were the days when i used perl with no strict and perlmonks was a casual page to visit, then one day a friend of mine who owns a restaurant asked me for help, he did need a POS so i make one with perl, for that project i learned (in the hard way) DBI, CGI, _allways_ use strict and warnings. That was about 2 years ago, now today i use perl for everything i need, and i get paid to use perl COOL :)

    About 3 months and 22 days ago i was in my friend restaurant, cuz he wanted some features to be added to the POS and i meet a girl, now that girl (vanne) is my g/f, so it was thanx to perl that i meet her :)
    Update #2
    Vanne and me broke up :'(

    Dreams they just disapear into the shadows,
    then they become true....
Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by hydo (Monk) on Dec 29, 2001 at 15:09 UTC
    Back around 95 or so I started writing a lot of CGI in C just for fun and, a while later, professionally. I had a library that I would use called libwww. Every time I install a new machine and update CPAN I think about that. Anyway, I got introduced to Python while working for a major online healthcare company and learned that since our entire site was written in it. Then along came Perl. It seemed a lot like C which endeared me to it immediately. Then the fact that it wasn't C endeared me even more. =)
Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by belg4mit (Prior) on Dec 29, 2001 at 11:34 UTC
    I had had just been introduced to Athena (née Project Athena) and doing lots of cshell scripting (please, I don't need pointers to "Csh considered harmful"). And I came across a wrapper for zephyr. Zephyr is MIT's "instant messaging" service that long predates AIM, ICQ, et al. It's also used at CMU and a few other places. Anyways, the wrapper chose a random signature from a flatfile for these messages, and I wanted to add features that the author was opposed to so I slowly figured out how to do it myself ;-).

    perl -pe "s/\b;([st])/'\1/mg"

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by stefp (Vicar) on Dec 29, 2001 at 21:03 UTC
    I remember one cathartic event probably in 1988. I was working on a Sun 3-50 when I noticed a slowdown. I did a ps (processes status command) and noticed two things. A colleague was connected to the 3-50. And two consecutive ps gave me very different pids. I asked the colleague what he was doing. He was using sh or csh to do arithmetic. Each arithmetic operation was costing a fork.

    I correlated that with the difficulty of building scripts with pipes, double quoted interpolation, bactik interpolation. I realized that the "Unix mantra combine small tools to make bigger ones" did not scale or necessited competences beyond mines. Also I had to remember many small languages and the command line switch for many utlities. Many of them supported some set of regexps but not the same subset and not always the same syntax. What a mess.

    I was a C programmer but I liked the shell concept, Building thinks incrementally and testing at the command line was good. I searched mostly self-sufficient "shellish" tool and I found perl. The manual was not too big (this was in 1988) and I soon realized that was very the tool I was longing for. So I tried a statement with a regexp (probably incorrect) and the interpretor crashed. What a disappointment. I checked again a few month later and I had no problem. In fact you can see my first post dated 17-12-89 to comp.lang.perl immediately corrected by "Tom C.". I am talking about my first significant program at stefp (scroll down and read at the right of the HP25 picture -- me too lazy create a link :)

    -- stefp

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by Dominus (Parson) on Dec 31, 2001 at 01:35 UTC
    I was a Unix sysadmin in 1992, and I kept running into folks who told me that Perl was a useful replacement for awk and bourne shell scripts. So I bought the Camel book and read it.

    As soon as I saw the open function I knew it was a winner.

    In short, I was in the target audience and I started using it for the usual reason. Not a very interesting story, I guess.

    Mark Dominus
    Perl Paraphernalia

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by maverick (Curate) on Dec 29, 2001 at 22:15 UTC
    This topic was covered once before at this node. Quite a few monks relayed their stories there (including myself).

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

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by innerfire (Novice) on Dec 31, 2001 at 01:44 UTC

    I was a sophomore in college (doing linguistics) in 1996, and I belonged to the CONLANG mailing list (community for people who invent their own languages (spoken and otherwise)). Someone had posted a Perl4 program to generate a vocabulary based on a phonology you configured it with. I had no idea what Perl even was--the last programming I had done was BASIC on an Apple II in 5th grade. I got the Llama book and banged on the program for hours. My life was changed. :)

Re: What got you interested in Perl?
by Chainsaw (Friar) on Jan 05, 2002 at 00:16 UTC
    As shadox said it was when we be in the college. The day that we start to learn Perl was something diferent.

    Then we start to look for some manuals or tutorials, and we start to make some samples (yes without strict). Thing that is already fixed.

    Now in my work i don't use perl, but in my free time I work on it, actually I think that I getting better day by day. Well I supose to.

    God help me always to see the other face of the coin. And prevent me from accusing of betrayal those who don't think just as I do.

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