Unit 1. Introduction and History of Perl

In this Unit you will know about the history and philosophy of Perl. Some interesting Facts about Perl.


  • Introduction to Perl
  • Perl History
  • Perl Philosophy


  • A scripting language
  • Operating systems can do many things
  • copy, move, create, delete, compare files
  • execute programs, including compilers
  • schedule activities, monitor processes, etc.
  • A command-line interface gives you access to these functions, but only one at a time
  • A scripting language is a “wrapper” language that integrates OS functions

Some Scripting Languages

  • UNIX has sh, bash, ksh, csh, perl
  • Macintosh has AppleScript, Frontier
  • Windows does not have any scripting languages – probably due to weaknesses of DOS
  • Generic scripting languages include:
  • Perl (most popular)
  • Python (Java-like, best for large programs)


  • “Practical Extraction and Reporting Language”
  • Written by Larry Wall and first released in 1987
  • Perl has become a very large system of modules
  • Name came first, then the acronym
  • Perl is a language for easily manipulating text, files and processes
  • -Originally aimed at systems administrators and developers

What is Perl?

  • Perl is a High-level Scripting language
  • Faster than sh or csh, slower than C
  • No need for sed, awk, head, wc, tr, …
  • Compiles at run-time
  • Available for Unix, PC, Mac
  • Best Regular Expressions on Earth

Perl History

  • 1986-87 – Perl was invented by Larry Wall at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs
  • 1987-Dec Perl 1 introduced Perl to the world.
  • 1988-Jun Perl 2 introduced Henry Spencer’s regular expression package.
  • 1989-Oct Perl 3 introduced the ability to handle binary data.
  • 1991-Mar Perl 4 introduced the first Camel book.
  • 1994-Oct Perl 5 introduced everything else, (OOP, threads…)
  • 2014-05-27 Perl 5.20 has been released by Ricardo Signes.
  • Latest Version is 5.24

Perl Philosophy

  • TIMTOWTDI is pronounced “Tim Toady” and is:
  • There is more than one way to do it
  • Perl aims to be aggressively non-prescriptivist.
  • Prescriptivism is the attitude or belief that one variety of a language is superior to others and should be promoted as such.
  • Every problem should have multiple solutions.

Making easy things easy & hard things possible

  • This quote comes from the front of Learning Perl, also known as the Llama.
  • It goes hand-in-hand with TIMTOWTDI.
  • Every problem has multiple solutions implies every problem has at least one solution 🙂

linguistics background

  • Perl’s creator Larry Wall has a linguistics background, and took some of that with him when he designed Perl.
  • Keywords such as “for”, “my”, “defined”, “say”, “do”, “while”, “if”, “unless”, and “use” all read quite nicely to English eyes as well as to programmer eyes.

Low Ambiguity

  • In many languages this is acceptable:
puts 4 + 2                             # 6
puts “ram" + “n"               # “ramn"
puts “6" + 2                         # `+': can't convert num into String
In Perl we use different operators:
say 1 + 2;                              # 3
say “R" . “N";                      # “RN"
say "2" + 1;                          # 3
say "2" . 1;                           # 21


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