Perl programming language turns 25 today

Call it 'duct tape' or 'a Swiss Army chainsaw'

Feel free to light 25 candles today for "the duct tape of the Internet," or if you prefer, "the Swiss Army chainsaw." By either of its future nicknames, version 1.0 of the Perl programming language was released on Dec. 18, 1987 by its creator Larry Wall.


A quarter of a century later, some have written off Perl as over the hill, although rankings compiled by TIOBE Software show the language clinging to a top 10 spot -- No. 9 with an "A" status -- in terms of popularity among programmers.

(2012’s 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries)

The history of Perl is well chronicled here, but we'll pull out one tidbit: the pumpkin (or "pumpking," as you'll see it in the photo above).


Chip Salzenberg gets credit for that, with a nod to his cow orker, David Croy. We had passed around various names (baton, token, hot potato) but none caught on. Then, Chip asked:

[begin quote]

   Who has the patch pumpkin?

To explain: David Croy once told me that at a previous job, there was one tape drive and multiple systems that used it for backups. But instead of some high-tech exclusion software, they used a low-tech method to prevent multiple simultaneous backups: a stuffed pumpkin. No one was allowed to make backups unless they had the "backup pumpkin".

[end quote]

The name has stuck. The holder of the pumpkin is sometimes called the pumpking (keeping the source afloat?) or the pumpkineer (pulling the strings?).

Here's a 1998 interview Salon conducted with Wall, headlined: The Joy of Perl.

And a collection of often-colorful Wall quotes is here.

Finally, there's this six-minute video interview by Big Think in which Wall discusses his work habits: "Coffee is my drug of choice. ... Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow."

Happy birthday, Perl.

(Update: Here's the Perl Foundation's celebratory essay issued today.)

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