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What is Perl Programming?

written by: nain•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 10/10/2008

A brief history of Perl, from its origins in the 1980’s and an example of the simplicity of the language and some words on the benefits of open source, and where to learn more.

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    Perl is a computer programming language that was created by Larry Wall and first released in the late 1980’s. It is a popular programming tool and open source software package that promises stable and secure programming over many different platforms.

    Perl was created by looking at the many other programming languages available like BASIC, awk and sed among them, and utilizing and refining the best features of those to create a more efficient and usable product. Perl is integrated to work with HTML and XML and also supports the MySQL database system, among many others.

    There are many extensions to Perl called add ons that create extra functions and these are growing all the time as more are created for ease of use and functionality.

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    Popular thanks to ease of use

    Perl has become among the most popular, possibly the most popular, programming languages thanks to its constant development, ease of use and simplicity.

    Like many similar languages, the aim of Perl is to be simple to use and functional, with the emphasis on these areas rather than on looks and style. This gives the user a language that is quicker to use than many others that are burdened with the need to look good.

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    Simple commands

    Let’s have a look at some simple Perl commands, and the syntax involved, in order to get an idea of the simplicity of the language.

    Assuming we want the following message:

    My name is John

    to appear on screen, the Perl command would be, simply:

    print "My name is John";

    That is the basic command which is simple and straightforward, and easy to remember.

    There are rules to remember, however, such as not leaving space with quotations as it will be repeated in the function, and ending all commands with the semi colon.

    To go too deep into the syntax of Perl would be unnecessary here, but the above example gives an idea of the sheer simplicity of the language. Bear in mind that the commands used in the likes of BASIC ‘if’, ‘Run’, and others are used in Perl, and the attraction of using such a simple and understandable programming language is greater.

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    Open source

    As Perl is open source which is a system of development that involves the users review and constant modification. It is geared towards the end user and the requirements of the many, and will continue to provide a standard and usable programming language for the foreseeable future.

    Indeed, a vast number of Perl ‘user groups’ have been established, via which users communicate and advise on possible improvements, and the language has a following that has resulted in its own journal and dedicated website which is a useful source of information.

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    There are many books available on this usable and innovative language and a large number aimed at the beginner or novice programmer. An introduction to one of these can be a useful way of getting a good knowledge of Perl.