I'm going to "pop this up a few levels", because the exchange between BrowserUk and me isn't easily visible any more. Here's a (somewhat edited) version of the last couple exchanges. Sorry, my html smarts don't include making the quotations evident, and the Formatting Tips didn't help a lot.
(jpl) Why couldn't we have a format item "Y" (where "Y" is some unused format character, finding which may be the real problem) such that
There are many format characters, v among them, that pack integers into strings and unpack strings into integers. I believe the only practical difference between "Y" and "v" is the contents of the string. The one produced by "v" may be unsuitable for display, the one produced by "Y" would be both displayable and, when displayed, indicative of the bits in the integer from which it was produced.
(BrowserUk:) It could work and would be useful. It would be a departure from the norm of converting numerics to and from their binary representation.
There are some issues as to what should happen if you specified pack 'Y4', 100000; or pack 'Y4', 32.0 but actually that perhaps suggests a way around the lack of remaining letters that also has an existing precedent.
To skip a complex structure--say consisting of 2 shorts and float--the syntax is X[vvf], meaning skip enough bytes to cover 2 shorts and a float. Ie. 2+2+4 = 8 bytes.
To get your hexified numeric, the syntax could be pack 'H[v]', 32, meaning treat the number as a a 16-bit int and hexify it; thereby producing your 4 bytes of output.
The nice thing is that this then extends naturally to pack 'H[V]', 32; to produce 8-bytes of hex. And pack 'H[Q]', 123456789012345; and even pack 'H[f]', 1234.56e78; and so on.
And once that is accepted, this further extends to the other bane of pack/unpack; binary. With 'B[v] b[V] B[d]' etc. And a quick peruse of the docs suggest] that 'O' isn't currently used, so maybe 'O[v] O[Q]' might be useful also.
Now all you've got to do is: knock up the patch; get it by p5p; and wait for it to make it into a build :)
(End of thread summary).
Perhaps, rather than having to reproduce much of the complexity of the [v] [Q] etc. notation, the format item could "functionally compose" with the item that followed. (Not so different from BrowserUk's Re^3 suggestion, but all carried out within pack/unpack.) So, whatever string the following pack format item produces gets turned into printable hex (or octal or binary, I suppose), and unpack would turn the printable string into the (usually unprintable string) that the next item expects to unpack. I haven't actually looked at the pack/unpack code, but this has the "feel" of something that should be able to piggy-back off existing code to do all the "hard work".