Larry Wall, a linguist working as a sys admin at NASA, first developed Perl in the late '80s as a way to make report processing easier. Perl's reputation grew to be known as the Swiss Army Knife in the sys admin's toolkit. However, it has grown into a powerful general-purpose programming language [Sheppard].
print "Hello, world!\n";
History and Design
Perl has a strong, ecclectic community that started, primarily, in Usenet. From relatively simple applications, Perl has been expanded significantly. There's a large repository of Perl code called CPAN, where over 100 thousand modules are archived. Applications vary from CGI scripting to OS interfaces.
Perl has a number of interesting quotes and slogans.
- Only perl can parse Perl
- Perl has a canonical rule for capitalization. The language (family) is known as Perl, while the executable, or the interpreter, is known as perl. The Perl grammar is notoriously complex, therefore most defer the arduous task of parsing Perl solely to perl.
- There's more than one way to do it (TMTOWTDI)
- Perl is a powerfully expressive language, and its collection of special variables has earned it a reputation of resembling "line noise." This expressive power means there's often a multitude of ways to accomplish a given task.
Good for Beginners?
Perl is a powerful scripting language, and, in my experience, was pretty fun to learn. However, depending on the source you use to study the language, some of the Perl idioms might seem overly confusing, but it's important to remember that the use of the more obscure idioms isn't required. It's perfectly possible to write clear regular expressions and Perl if you discipline yourself.
The expansive CPAN library means you have a wide variety of domains you can target with Perl. If you're not a fan of the powerful free-flow syntax of Perl, you might prefer the more rigid design of Python.