TECHNOMANIFESTOS
Cyberspace, left to itself, will not fulfill the promise of freedom. Left to itself, cyberspace will become the perfect tool of control.
--Lawrence Lessig

  Perl

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Programming language developed by Larry Wall beginning in 1987. Perl embodies two precepts that Wall calls the Perl slogans: "There's more than one way to do it", and "Easy things should be easy--hard things should be possible". Wall released the first version on December 18, 1987 to the comp.sources.misc newsgroup. While he originally designed it to be the ultimate text-processing language, he made sure to incorporate C-like capabilities to handle bit-level manipulation.

The genesis of the programming language Perl began in the early 1980s, when Larry Wall was working as a Unix support programmer at the cold war giant computer corporation Burroughs, a job that gave him plenty of time to hack around writing his own programs. These hacks were intended to make his job easier and more enjoyable, and he released them for anyone to use to make their lives easier and more enjoyable. These programs -- the newsreader rn, the programming tools patch and metaconfig, and a computer game, warp -- along with his active participation in Internet newsgroups made his name quickly well known. Patch was especially popular, because it allowed people to easily share updates for programs over the low-bandwith Usenet. Each of his programs was a great bit of code, but he still had plenty of free time and lots of coding zeal. He was ready to take on a real challenge, something that would really improve the way people used their systems.

In 1986, Wall’s supervisor gave him a giant task with a tight deadline. Wall’s division in Burroughs/Unisys was assigned to a National Security Agency project, codename "Blacker," which involved an encrypted, high-speed, bicoastal network—testing out a kind of top-secret, paranoid alternative to the ARPAnet. Wall was told to create a configuration and monitoring system for the network, which had both Digital and Sun Microsystems machines on either coast, in a single month. Using the Unix toolkit, including some of the stuff he wrote, he hacked together a solution, transforming the Usenet news system into a command distribution system. Problem solved.

The supervisor then told him to assemble reports from the jumble of log files on the different computers. Wall reached into the Unix toolkit and discovered that the tool he wanted to use, awk, had crucial bits missing and was too slow.

Following what he dubbed the three chief virtues of a programmer (laziness, impatience, and hubris) Wall knew he had to write a new tool to do the job, but he was tired of making do with the kludgy jumble of the Unix toolkit, in which some tools were very good and others were awful. He wanted duct tape. He wanted a Swiss Army knife. He wanted to develop a tool that would continue to solve different problems in the future.

If Wall worked really hard, he probably could have figured out a way to get awk to do the job. But he was too lazy. Doing that work would take a long, boring time, and awk was a slow, slow program. He was too impatient. And he believed he could do the job better himself. He had the hubris. Wall first intended to name the new programming language after his wife, Gloria. Then he came up with pearl, which was both beautiful and was obliquely scriptural, referring to Jesus's parable of a merchant "seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matthew 13:46). With that in mind, he came up with a phrase to justify the name as an acronym: Practical Extraction and Report Language. But Unix commands were rarely five letters long, and he heard of a process control language with the same name. So Wall changed the name to perl, which allowed him to keep the first acronymic expansion and come up with a second, hacker-humor one: Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister. (Originally, perl was lowercase. Now, perl refers to the program and Perl the language.)

Throughout 1987 Wall worked on Perl, releasing the first version on December 18, 1987 to the comp.sources.misc newsgroup on the Internet.

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