|Perl: the Markov chain saw|
My first approach to Perl. How has been yours?by blazar (Canon)
|on Sep 02, 2005 at 15:55 UTC||Need Help??|
PremiseThis is not exactly a meditation as much as it is a memory. I also bet this has come out before. Hope not too often...
The whole storyI'm sure I first heard about Perl short after the birth of the web. It may have been 1995 or 1996 at most. At that time the internet was becoming a mass phenomenon and one of my friends lent me a magazine about it.
There was just a brief column there advertising Perl - it was mentioning it along the lines of "Do you know those URLs like http://somesite.com/cgi-bin/prog?this=foo&that=bar? Well, most probably there's Perl behind them".
I'm not even sure if it actually said "most probably". Indeed we all know that this kind of popularity -also through the proliferation of skript kiddies- has contributed much to Perl's diffusion (update: related meditation at Script kiddies and the like: beneficial or disadvantageous?). Up to the point that still nowadays many people mistake web server issues for Perl ones, which is most often quite a PITA...
To stress even more the subject it called Perl "the glue that kept the web together". It also mentioned that Perl programmers have fun writing obfuscated code and that that language gives great oppurtunities in this sense. Which intrigued me very much, I must say!!
But I didn't get actually in touch with it then. Much time later -I don't know exactly when, but for sure we were already in Perl5 times- a few friends of mine took a brief Perl course at university. I didn't, but continued to be intrigued, also because of their enthusiastic comments supporting my interest.
I can't remember exactly when I actually put my hands on it, but the first version I worked with was 5.6.1, so it shouldn't be too difficult to track an approximate time interval.
Basically I had to do some numeric computations, say Number Theory or Combinatorics: nothing really too computationally intensive. Just too hard to do by hand. Or with a pocket calculator. And -also for this reason- I didn't want to start again with C which I had already abandoned about a decade before. So I said to myself: well, let's give Perl a try...
Of course I had to start from somewhere so in some way I obtained a copy of "Learning Perl" which drove me for the first steps and helped me to do what I had to do. I can't remember those programs nor do I have a copy of them, but I bet they were horrible...
Unfortunately that copy of the book was an obsolete one, still referring to Perl4. But then I soon began to read and post regularly to clpmisc and the gentle people there helped me correcting my errors and introduced me to more modern coding. I'm sure I've learnt more there -about Perl, that is- than anywhere else...
Also, about that time, I had to do some offline HTML generation, for personal use. I had done similar stuff with editor macros, shell scripts or more dirty hacks before, but in this case it was getting quite complicated for similar approaches.
With the help of clpmisc's contributors I could easily obtain what I wanted with perl. Retrospectively I think this added a big thrust to the motivation I had to go on with Perl. And indeed I continued to use it for my own use, asking on the newsgroup for practical suggestions, but also reading the articles there for the sole sake of learning.
Now I'm still a student, but I also have a part-time job as a Perl programmer. And this forces me to go on learning about application-specific topics and to discover more modules to do what I'm asked to do, and so on...
How 'bout your own encounter with Perl?!?