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Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?

by QM (Parson)
on Jun 25, 2018 at 09:23 UTC ( [id://1217349]=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Prompted by this comic at Commit Strip.

Me? (Not that I'm an expert.) Because Perl was handy, extremely useful, and didn't require a separate compile phase. Because I could solve other people's problems with it. Because it was general purpose, and not specifically geared for stream picking / editing. Because it was free. Because it was more fun than any other language I knew at the time.

Quantum Mechanics: The dreams stuff is made of

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Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Tux (Canon) on Jun 25, 2018 at 13:35 UTC

    I read about perl4 in a magazine and thought it would be a good replacement for our never ending combinations of sh/awk/sed and compiled C-programs. The boss allowed me to order the CD from the US. No internet then in our company. It proved to be a good choice. And awk2perl and sed2perl were a big help - then.

    Later I built in Unify database support into perl4. Don't ask: you don't want to go there.

    Then came perl5, with DBI! I waited a few years and as nobody else did, I wrote DBD::Unify. Using that with all the shiny new features in perl5 caused a rapid development of using perl in our daily process, so old perl4 scripts were rewritten to perl5, including all formatting stuuf using format. Perl5 however had a bug. In or about 2001, they said to fix that myself in the core if I knew any C, as nobody was interested in dealing with format-related code. I fixed it and I then knew why people stayed away from that code.

    A while later Jarkki asked me to take over responsibility for Configure in CORE. The vortex never ends, ad I am still around. Many conferences, meetings, patches, modules, more patches and new features later, I still see perl as my main development tool: it just gets the job done.

    Enjoy, Have FUN! H.Merijn
Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Discipulus (Canon) on Jun 25, 2018 at 10:28 UTC
    Uch! QM you stolen my idea for my next meditation! ;=)

    I planned to title it: How IT begun? My history with computers and programming anyway here I'm. For sure not an expert.

    I think this meditation, if rich of background details, will be useful or fun for future readers. Infact I suspect next generations of programmers will be prepeared in a more formal way and also programming languages will be more industry driven: no more tool made by passionate peoples to help other peoples but more tool made by the industry to make more gold more quicly, as always.

    I had a passion for history and I disliked math. Now I understand it was because of wrong teachers.

    My father is a professor of an humanistic field. He asked my help when I was a teenager to switch from his Olivetti Lettera 35 writing machine to a PC running DOS 6. I've done my best to help him but I looked at the manual of DOS 6 as you can look at gerogliphic on the Tutankamon pyramid: O_O

    On his 286 my father used wordstar 5.5 to produce text: everything was block driven with a kind of tag system ą la html.

    I remember my fear after issuying doublespace.bin reading the evil warning: this command is irreversible ouch!

    Then a big time gap till the end of the past millenium. I was in a small group and we collected some old computer and monitors to build up an hack lab. Linux was the new revolutionary thing! iirc redhat 5.6 was the release.

    A guy (Daniele if my memory still serves), shall Larry bless him, helped us to build the network (coaxial cables: do you remember?) and gave us the first notions of Linux. At the end of the session he distributed a 20 page Perl introduction in italian (i think is this one) saying: If someone is interested and has some spare time this is worth to read..

    A friend from Senegal teached me about the art of hardware maintenance, assembling and cannibalizing: still useful lessons!

    In a hot summer, after my hours as mason and before fool nights as you can only can afford in your 20s, I tried to write some html page and.. I get bored very soon: ok colors, letters, titles.. it seemed to me a primary school occupation. I needed something more challenging and I took such introduction to Perl.

    I reread it many times without understanding well what the goal was: at that time I had no internet support and everything was on my own.

    After some hours I produced my first script: an ugly chain of system calls to automate the firewall creation for the above Linux hack lab: the floppy must be still somewhere.

    I took a fixed-term job as warehouse worker in a small ISP in my town: I frequently asked for wisdom to Linux gurus there. I was asked to install some windows machine: winnt and the new windows2000. They hired me soon. The luck was at my side

    I used perl everytime I had an occasion to do it and I played with perl in my nights: very soon I produced working code to automate stuff on windows.

    Joined perlmonks on 2002 to get support: I found the link on my copy of Perl Language Reference italian edition (my english was not so good at this time: studied on my own as perl).

    I had some problem because no one of my bosses loved so much perl (only the owner of the company) as you can see in my Murder of a Perl coder (announced).

    So I started because with perl you have immediatly something working, I continued because it can glue everything, I'm still here because the challenge never ends. Infact after circa 2007 I put a big effort on my perl because was the only fun thing of my job: see Ten (years) Here and over the time it become a passion very deeply nested in me: red thread

    Worth to mention, even if you all already know, a wonderfull communty here at perlmonks: it is still now in 2018 my only net-place and I got a lot of support and some friends too.


    There are no rules, there are no thumbs..
    Reinvent the wheel, then learn The Wheel; may be one day you reinvent one of THE WHEELS.
      I had a passion for history and I disliked math. Now I understand it was because of wrong teachers

      Precisely the opposite for me on the first point...

      At primary school I could never understand why everyone else was so slow with the maths lessons. So the teachers used to give me the exercise books for the next level, and then the next...until I had completed all the maths books with two years left to go in that school. Then, they wondered why I got bored and disruptive.

      In theory these days, I would have been given more depth instead of the next year's work!

      Kings and Queens and other historical facts never excited me. But, as I've got older, social history has become more interesting although I would never describe myself as knowledgable on the topic.

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Eily (Monsignor) on Jun 25, 2018 at 12:19 UTC

    Oh, we had a similar conversation a few days ago in the CB :). As I said then, I started perl because I knew some PHP, and I was under the impression that perl was basically the same language, except arrays were written @array rather than $array, and that contrary to PHP it was a real language.

    I learned better about the first part since :P

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by LanX (Saint) on Jun 25, 2018 at 11:48 UTC
    I started CGIing in the early 2000nds and everyone said that the alternative (PHP) sucks.

    I also already had solid knowledge of bash and Perl had the look and feel of a clean bash++.

    Cheers Rolf
    (addicted to the Perl Programming Language :)
    Wikisyntax for the Monastery


    the rather more interesting question is why I stuck with it ...

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by choroba (Cardinal) on Jun 26, 2018 at 22:06 UTC
    I started with a minimalistic Basic dialect on an Intertechnique (all commands were just one letter long - but it had an oscilloscope!) at my father's office. When I was about 12, my parents bought me a Commodore 116/16. I started with its Basic, but later learned some assembly, too (from a German book - I didn't know any German at that time, and my English was rather rudimentary). My father later obtained an XT at the black market (Eastern block was under IT embargo) with a Hercules card, and we were able to get a copy of Borland's Turbo Pascal floppies (after the fall of the Communists, he bought a legal box with all the books and stuff). Pascal was all I needed to get as far as the University and first few sidejobs.

    At the University, Pascal was the main programming language (I finished the final exam on the first lecture), but they also taught us Prolog; I also learned SQL at sidejobs. In the third year, I was introduced to *nix with tcsh, Emacs, sed, ... and Perl! A colleague used it to replace my hacky Pascal program we used to search our research data. The original script later grew into a large Tk application, and when the colleague was hired by Google, I became its primary maintainer. I later left the University for private sector, but I stuck with Perl as my main language on all the jobs - it fits my brain best of all the languages I've tried.

    ($q=q:Sq=~/;[c](.)(.)/;chr(-||-|5+lengthSq)`"S|oS2"`map{chr |+ord }map{substrSq`S_+|`|}3E|-|`7**2-3:)=~y+S|`+$1,++print+eval$q,q,a,
Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Veltro (Hermit) on Jun 26, 2018 at 16:59 UTC

    Heard about Perl much longer ago but never thought about looking into it until one day, I did a search for a backup script and found this Perl program. So I installed Perl and downloaded the script and it worked very well. I started to become curious now, but it looked difficult, wtf are all those special characters doing...

    Then came a time that I needed find and replace something in a file and since I had Perl on my computer now I gave it a shot and started testing.

    I went back in my archives and here are the two little gems:

    while (<>) { next if /^$/; print; }


    $text = "A'B'C" ; $text = replacequote($text); print $text; sub replacequote { my $X=$_[0]; while ( $X =~ /\'/ ) { (my $l, my $r) = split ( /\'/, $X, 2); $X = "$l\\QUOTE$r"; } while ( $X =~ /\\QUOTE/ ) { (my $l, my $r) = split ( /\\QUOTE/, $X, 2); $X = "$l\\'$r"; } return $X; } sub replacequote_better { my $X=$_[0]; while ( $X =~ /[^\\]\'/ ) { #This line does not give the desired result that I have in mind (l rem +ains empty): (my $l, my $r) = split ( /[^\\]\'/, $X, 2); #print "left: $l\n"; #print "right: $r\n"; @array = split ( /[^\\]+\'/, $X, 2); print $_, "|" foreach @array; print "\n" ; $X = "$l\\'$r"; #print "new $X\n" ; } return $X; }
Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by karlgoethebier (Abbot) on Jun 26, 2018 at 08:27 UTC
    "Me? (Not that I'm an expert.)"

    I was forced to by my former boss at this company around 1998 or so when they separated from this company. It was also my first IT job. I guess it was because they needed an idiot for building CGI forms which could also open a terminal and operate emacs because at that time they only knew to operate Photoshop, Quark, Freehand and Illustrator on a Mac with OS 9 with a mouse. It was a magic time: Greatest success. Unbelievable for such a small company. I also maintained this website for years which was pure Perl/CGI at that time and the first bigger customer of the company.

    «The Crux of the Biscuit is the Apostrophe»

    perl -MCrypt::CBC -E 'say Crypt::CBC->new(-key=>'kgb',-cipher=>"Blowfish")->decrypt_hex($ENV{KARL});'Help

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Theodore (Friar) on Jul 10, 2018 at 12:48 UTC
    In one of my first jobs, twenty years ago, in the end of 20th century, i had to write a small web application (my first one), using asp and sql server, on NT4. For some reason it was really difficult to locate any documentation about asp back then. So, having just recently installed my first linux box, i looked for a language suited for web applications, plus a free software database. That's when i discovered Perl (and PostgreSQL). Installed Slackware in a small pc and wrote the (really simple) application in one day. Whenever i didn't knew how something was done in Perl, my first assumption/guess was right. This language had the same way of thinking as me. Never stopped developing in Perl since then.
      This language had the same way of thinking as me.

      This reason has been given by users like me and TheDamian. So you're in excellent company, partly. :P

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Your Mother (Archbishop) on Jun 25, 2018 at 16:48 UTC

    Lucky timing. The wrong college degree. Envy and vanity. Aptitude. Tilly Martinez and her see-through blouses.

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by corenth (Monk) on Jul 02, 2018 at 02:28 UTC

    I can't remember. By golly, I can't remember! It was after I learned about linux, which was about a year after I learned about internet. I'm willing to bet it was before I got married. I think it was me learning how to maintain my machines over time. Then, I started playing with it to learn and make things.

    I'm not a coder by trade. I'm an English teacher. But, I feel good deep down to my toes when I make "something" happen with code. (I'm rather proud of my esolang attempts) Now, I'm using Perl as a tool to solve problems that are important to me.

    One last thing. I've tried learning other languages: C, Lisp, Haskell, Javascript, Python, others I can't recall . . . but can't get into them (I guess that shows I'm not a professional (but, that's okay)). There's an ineffable quality to the TIMDOWDIness of Perl that feels like home. Nothing else compares so far. Recently, in trying to code in a more functional way, I've fallen into a declarative programming style --learned a (not entirely?) new (for me) way of imagining code. My code is clearer, better, and as Perlish as my code ever was.

    I think it's nice that this isn't my profession. While it'd be rewarding to work in this field, I can't help but think I wouldn't find as much joy in Perl if it were a job.

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by gunzip (Pilgrim) on Aug 09, 2023 at 05:03 UTC
    Perl was my first real programming language. I had been getting to grips with front-end web development (HTML, CSS and Javascript) for about a year and half then around May 2000 I was reading "Dreamweaver 3 Bible" trying to advance my search and replace skills. At the end of the relevant chapter was a short introduction to advanced search and replace using regular expressions followed by a reference to Jeffrey Friedl's "Mastering Regular Expressions". That short introduction to regexen in "Dreamweaver 3 Bible" lit a fire. Since childhood I've always been fascinated by secret languages, especially concise, mathematical codes. I first came across algebra in my dad's Encyclopedia Brittanica years before I encountered maths. at school. Regular expressions looked magical and powerful so I tracked-down a copy of Friedl at one of London's many libraries. As I read the book from cover to cover it quickly became apparent that not only was Friedl a Perlmeister but the book emphasised the primacy of Perl as the programming language for wielding regexen. "Mastering Regular Expressions" was also part of the O'Reilly Perl library which quickly led me to Larry Wall's "Programming Perl". Those 2 books not only introduced me to Perl but they are also extremely well-written books which continue to inspire me to this day when I dip into them from time to time. Perl was very popular when I encountered it in the Spring of 2000. Lincoln Stein's was widely used and after I learned how to use MySQL I had 2 new super-powers. I've since developed a passion for several other languages, notably Clojure and Ruby, but Perl will always have a special place in my life.
Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by mpeppler (Vicar) on Sep 16, 2023 at 09:51 UTC
    I was introduced to perl at the 1989 Software Development conference in Oakland, a presentation by Rob Kolstad. Back then I was mostly a C programmer, but also a DBA and sysadmin.

    Then I managed to get it installed (no internet, dialup services with shell archives sent via mail robots), and figured that perl was quite like C (from my perspective) without the compilation and memory hassles.

    About a year later usersubs were introduced to perl 3, and I figured that linking in the Sybase db-lib functions would be really useful...

    Over 30 years later it's still in use in some dark corners :-)


      I was introduced to perl at the 1989 Software Development conference in Oakland

      Wow, that's early, even before comp.lang.perl was formed! Did you hang out on Usenet back then and remember the (futile) "No Perl please" requests in some of the posts? ... merlyn apparently enjoyed responding to shell/sed/awk Usenet requests with Perl code so much that he formed part of the 2.7% who voted against the formation of a separate comp.lang.perl newsgroup. :)

      See also: How long have you been using Perl? poll by vroom (and TimToady's reply ;-)

        Shows my age :-)

        I did hang out on Usenet back then, also on comp.databases and later comp.databases.sybase... all ancient history today!


Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by roho (Bishop) on Aug 10, 2023 at 04:56 UTC

    I started using Perl in the mid 1990's as a data quality technician. Perl and DBI combined to give me the ability to scan the massive DB's of my employers for problems and quickly fix them. For the next 20 years I used the same toolbox of utility programs (with enhancements along the way) with Sybase, Oracle, and SQL Server DB's on *nix and Windows with minimal changes required. Perl made my tagline a reality (taken from a Datamation magazine -- see below and see my homepage for the accompanying picture).

    Perl truly was (and still is) for me the Swiss Army Chainsaw, and earned me the nickname "Mr. Magic" at work (although the real magic was in Perl). Thank you, Larry Wall, for creating the best programming language of all time.

    "It's not how hard you work, it's how much you get done."

Re: Why did you become a Perl expert (or programmer)?
by Bod (Parson) on Sep 17, 2023 at 00:13 UTC

    Having had a BBC Micro in my teens, I had been used to programming in BASIC and started to get familiar with 6502 assembly. But work, young ladies and bars took my attention away from everything IT. Until in the 1990s, I started university as a mature student. They had some Windows 3.11 machines that I couldn't get on with! The thing that struck me was that I couldn't program this thing like I could a BBC Micro.

    But then my housemate tomgracy bought a new computer - with Windows 95. I was blown away by this contraption!

    It wasn't long before I bought a secondhand 386 and begged a 36kbps modem, found an AOL CD and connected to this new-fangled internet thing. It would be 1995 probably. In my second year studying physics we did a C++ module and I found for the first time how I could program one of these Windows machines. There was a magazine I bought that had a CD on the cover and I recall being excited that one edition came with Borland C++.

    C++ was difficult to get to do anything interesting. Besides I wanted to know about the internet and how to share things on it. Webpages built using MSWord were OK to a point and DreamWeaver was only marginally better.

    I cannot recall exactly how I got into working with webpages but I remember learning HTML3 and Javascript from tutorials on WiReD when I was supposed to be revising for an exam...strange how more gets done around exam time!

    That led to discovering Perl. I found a few scripts and studied them to find out how they worked. I looked at CGI and worked out how to decode query strings and it all went from there. I knew I was only scratching the surface and wanted to learn more. So I was super excited to see the Computer Science Department at Manchester University were offering a one day course for staff - Introduction to Perl. I went and asked for a place and they let me attend as they were short of numbers. That course was a let down...I already knew more than the instructor, or at least more than he was prepared to teach us. Many of the people on the course didn't return in the afternoon as they found loops too difficult.

    The Camel Book went on my Christmas list and I was happy to be unwrapping it on Christmas morning at my then gf's parents...that was my reading for the festive break sorted. Finally understanding arrays and hashes was such a revelation!

    And...I've been using Perl ever since...

    I've used Java a little to create some Android apps. Even less Node.js on an AWS Lamda server to process Alexa commands.

    But other than those small diversions, I only ever program in Perl or client side JavaScript...

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