"Perl, variously expanded to "Practical Extraction and Report
Language" and "Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister," started out
as a way for Larry Wall to generate some reports from a
bug-reporting system running on Unix. Since then, like Topsy, it
just "grow'd" - to the point that it runs on most operating
systems, does almost anything you could reasonably want from a
scripting language, and underpins a good fraction of the world's
websites. Larry Wall is still Perl's chief architect, but Perl's
development is now done by a committee. There are good reasons why
the authoritative Perl reference is known as "The Camel Book,"
beyond the obvious fact that it has a camel on the cover."
"The second expansion of Perl given above is Larry Wall's own
joke, and isn't totally a joke: Perl is nothing if not eclectic.
Perl combines elements from C, Unix shells, awk, sed, and Wall only
knows what else. It's sort of an interpreter and sort of a
compiler: Perl scripts are distributed as source code, but the Perl
interpreter compiles a whole script in memory before it executes
any of it."
"Why would you want to learn Perl? One good reason is to
write CGI scripts for websites; another good reason is to write
system-administration scripts. You might want to learn Perl for the
same reason Larry Wall originally wrote it: because you're lazy
(that was my reason). Or, to be crass, you might want to learn
Perl because good Perl programmers are considered pearls of great
price. CPAN, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, holds the
current Perl source and binary distributions as well as the
documentation, contributed modules, and contributed scripts. The
main CPAN ftp site is ftp.funet.fi, but unless you're in Finland it
isn't the best site for you to use. Instead, you should use your
Web browser to access the CPAN multiplex service at www.perl.com.
Basically, the multiplex service routes any address starting with
http://www.perl.com/CPAN/ to what it thinks is your nearest mirror
site, based on your IP address. If you find that the multiplex
service takes you to a site that doesn't perform well for you, you
can select your mirror site manually at http://www.perl.com/CPAN
(note the lack of a final slash)."
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