print “Happy 25th Birthday, Perl”;

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Perl, that boon to the Linux hacker and confuser of non-monks, is 25 years old today. Larry Wall, creator of Perl, released the first version of the ahr language on December 18, 1987 (although Perl 0 existed, Wall refuses to tell when he created it). You could argue that Perl has been overshadowed by other languages like PHP and Python, but every programmer knows there’s nothing like a solid Perl script to tackle the nasty jobs that pop up on a daily basis.

Wall created the language as an alternative to tools like sed and awk that, while powerful, didn’t have the the straightforward panache of a standard programming language. Perl is best known for its use of regular expressions, a vexing if powerful way to scan data for patterns and strings of text.

Wall suggests that Perl offers more than one way to do something and says that, through Perl, “Easy things should be easy and hard things should be possible.” The language, in itself, is gloriously simple but can be used to produce masterworks of the obfuscated form with something like this:

#!/usr/bin/perl
$_=q|trdKVO99Rhlokd:trdGSLK99O`qrdq:#o<GSLK99O`
qrdq,=mdv’cde`tks^g<=Zrtaz#^mncd^hc<#^Z/\!(<}.;oqdbk`rr(;[.oqd=.r:#o,=o`qrd’#0(|;sub AUTOLOAD{@_?(
$_=~s/(.)\n?/chr(ord($1)+1)/egx,eval):AUTOLOAD(
$AUTOLOAD=~s/\D//gr);}&split9join9chop75chop88;

So here’s to Larry Wall and the brave men and women who built and maintained Perl over the past quarter decade. It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who is ready with a tool for folks who need to pick out all the addresses and last names in an 800 megabyte text dump from a gaming forum (true story). Where will Perl be in another 25 years? Who knows, but maybe we’ll get Perl 6 by then.