Perl came to me a bit accidentally. I started off as a C programmer, ending up doing about 10 years of C and 4 of C++ before really digging into Perl. Along the way -- around the time I was about 6 years into C -- a coworker started going on about Perl. This was around the time of Perl 4. I took a look but wasn't really interested. Most of the work I did required C; for everything else I had a pretty good base of shell/sed/awk type scripts that did just fine. I didn't see much point in learning Perl at that point. Over the next 6-7 years I debugged some Perl but never really dug in. I was then hired into a job where I was presumably going to do a lot of Java. That was another language I had only played with really, but my C++ background gave me a foot in the door. The Java based web back-end code I was supposed to start on didn't exist yet though. In the meantime, my boss started throwing data munging tasks at me. Some of these were already started in Perl so I bit the bullet and finally learned it. After a few months of "just scripting" I started to build packages, dug into the OO side and never looked back. I've remained in the data munging/mapping area and Perl fits here really well. I also end up writing lots of "glue" pieces to hold the rest of the system together. The bulk of the system is Java but we coexist pretty peacefully -- I think each side sees the the other's strengths and weaknesses.
Interesting observation here: Back around my first look during the Perl 4 era, a few coworkers and I saw things we thought were inconsistent and sometimes just obscure. It wasn't until I read The Camel a few times (never as a straight read, but just hitting sections as needed) that I was enlightened. I think to really understand some of the things that confuse a lot of people, you have to understand some of the language internals. On the surface it's a lot like C or shell, but under the covers you find some Lisp-ish type features most people aren't usually exposed to in their day to day coding lives. There is, IMO, a tendency today towards languages of one ilk -- the C/C++/Java path, for example. Perl diverges in some key areas. That gives it power but (again IMO) it also makes it hard for a lot of people to get their arms around.
If you've never read this Paul Graham piece about Lisp I think it has some quite good points regarding choice of programming language.
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