|Perl: the Markov chain saw|
When I answer the question "how long have you been using Perl" folks often times don't believe me. There are folks out there that think Perl is only a few years old.
My first introduction to Perl was when I worked for a very small semiconductor manufacturer that went out of business in the late eighties. It also conincides with my first introduction to UUCP and the Usenet. It is one of my earliest memories having to do with Unix System Administration and actually writing scripts and programs on the platform. I was responsible at the time for the care and feeding of an HP 9000 Model 840, and HP 9000 Model 820 and a wealth of HP9000 Model 3x0 systems all running early releases HPUX. Not to mention HP's bastard step child the HP 9000 Model 500 that we had in one of our labs.
Over a 2400 baud modem connection to the University of Rutgers I read the newsgroups on USENET that had anything to do with programming in Unix, any source code for "neat" stuff for Unix and I learned at a frightening rate the trade of being a Unix professional.
Well one day a set of "shar" files caught my attention and I remembered reading a news article in one of the USENET groups about this thing called "Perl." and how it would revolutionize Unix scripting. In unpacked/assembled/decoded the shar files (actually they were unencoded/compressed/shar files that were split IIRC) and ran Configure accepted defaults and it refused to compile. Lots of errors. Asked around the news groups and within a couple of days /usr/local/bin on my system (and other directories) had pieces of Perl installed in them.
The first thing I noticed about the language was that I could stop piping one command to another to cut to awk to sed to.... oh you get the idea. I then went on a campaign of converting all my existing shell scripts to Perl and I haven't looked back since. I still write the occasional bash script but 99.999999% of my scripts are now in Perl.
And that was a long time ago this all happened....
Excerpt from the timeline of Perl:
1987 UUNET is founded with Usenix funds to provide commercial UUCP and Usenet access. Originally an experiment by Rick Adams and Mike O'Dell Hmm, doubtful. The source code generally wasn't there when I needed it. -- Larry Wall when asked if he learned Perl from the perl source Perl 1.000 is unleashed upon the world. Some People take Perls' Birthday seriously. Behold as Randal sings Happy Birthday to Larrys' answering machine. The description from the original man page sums up this new language well. (18 December) NAME perl | Practical Extraction and Report Language SYNOPSIS perl options filename args DESCRIPTION Perl is a interpreted language optimized for scanning arbi- trary 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, effi- cient, 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 fas- ter, 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. OK, enough hype.