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🙇‍♀️  Students & Apprentices

Get ready for an exciting journey into the fascinating world of Perl, a scripting language that has been delighting, intriguing, and sometimes confusing developers for over three decades. Today, we'll be exploring the wonderful quirks of Perl, diving into some code samples, and delving into the amazing legacy that this language has left on the programming world!

🌠 A Brief History of Perl

Perl was created by a programmer named Larry Wall in 1987. Wall was primarily a Unix programmer, and he found himself frustrated with the limitations of Unix shell scripting and text processing tools like awk and sed. So, like any good programmer with a healthy dose of curiosity and gumption, he decided to create his own language! Perl stands for "Practical Extraction and Reporting Language," which hints at its initial use case as a text-processing and report-generating tool.

Perl's popularity exploded throughout the 1990s, especially among system administrators and web developers. It played a significant role in the early days of the World Wide Web, earning the nickname "the duct tape of the Internet."

🔮 The Perl Philosophy: TMTOWTDI (There's More Than One Way To Do It)

One of the most infamous aspects of Perl is its philosophy of "There's more than one way to do it." This design principle means that Perl often offers multiple ways to accomplish the same task or solve a problem. While this flexibility can lead to some incredibly expressive code and powerful one-liners, it has also been known to cause confusion and a wide range of coding styles amongst Perl developers. Let's take a look at a simple example:

Code Sample #1: Hello World in Perl

print "Hello, world!\n";

Code Sample #2: Hello World in Perl, another way!

use feature 'say';
say "Hello, world!";

In the first example, we use the print function to output a string followed by an explicit newline character (\n). In the second example, we enable a newer Perl feature called say, which automatically adds a newline after the string. These are just two of many ways to accomplish the same goal in Perl – printing "Hello, world!" to the screen.

🌈 Perl's Regular Expressions Magic

Perl is widely acclaimed for its powerful and intuitive handling of regular expressions, which allows you to match and manipulate text patterns with ease. In fact, Perl's regex engine is so advanced that it has been borrowed and adapted by other popular languages like Python, JavaScript, and Ruby!

Let's dive into a code sample that showcases the magic of Perl's regexes:

my $text = "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.";
$text =~ s/\b\w+\b/ucfirst($&)/ge;
print $text;

Here, we use the s/// operator to search for all words (sequences of word characters \w+ surrounded by word boundaries \b) in the $text variable and replace each word with its capitalized version (ucfirst($&)). The g flag tells the regex engine to apply the replacement globally (to all matches), and the e flag tells it to evaluate the replacement part as a Perl expression. The result is:

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog.

Amazing, isn't it? And this is just a taste of what Perl's regex engine can do!

💡 The Swiss Army Chainsaw: Working with Data Structures

Perl's built-in data structures are versatile and expressive, which earned the language another nickname: "the Swiss Army chainsaw of programming languages." Let's explore Perl's two primary data structures: arrays and hashes!

Arrays in Perl

Arrays in Perl are ordered lists of scalar values, accessed by their indices:

my @colors = ("<span class="c-red">red</span>", "<span class="c-green">green</span>", "<span class="c-blue">blue</span>");
print $colors[1]; # prints "<span class="c-green">green</span>"

Perl supports handy array operations, like push, pop, shift, and unshift:

push @colors, "yellow"; # adds "yellow" to the end of the array
my $last_color = pop @colors; # removes and returns "yellow"

Hashes in Perl

Hashes (also called associative arrays or dictionaries) are collections of key-value pairs:

my %fruit_colors = (
    apple  => "<span class="c-red">red</span>",
    banana => "yellow",
    grape  => "purple"
print $fruit_colors{"apple"}; # prints "<span class="c-red">red</span>"

Keys and values can also be extracted using the keys() and values() functions:

my @fruit_names = keys %fruit_colors;
my @colors = values %fruit_colors;

🌟 Enter the Modern Age: Perl 5 and Beyond

Perl has seen numerous updates throughout the years, with Perl 5 being a major milestone that introduced object-oriented programming, Unicode support, improved regexes, and many other enhancements. There is even a sister language, Perl 6 (renamed to Raku), which has a separate development track but shares much of the Perl philosophy.

The Perl community remains alive and active, continually working on language improvements and maintaining a rich ecosystem of modules through the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN).

👥 Famous Quotes from Larry Wall

It wouldn't be complete without including some famous quotes from the creator of Perl, Larry Wall:

  • "Perl is designed to give you several ways to do anything, so consider picking the most readable one."
  • "The three chief virtues of a programmer are: Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris."

✨ Wrapping Up

Perl is a language full of character, charm, and quirks that has played an influential role in the world of programming. We've only scratched the surface of this captivating language, but I hope you've enjoyed this whirlwind tour and are now as intrigued and amused by Perl as I am! Now it's time for you to dive into Perl projects, explore its many features, and contribute to the lively community. Happy coding! is a collection of articles on a variety of technology and programming articles assembled by James Padolsey. Enjoy! And please share! And if you feel like you can donate here so I can create more free content for you.