Possessed of a name that stands for "Practical Extraction and Report Language" -- or maybe not -- Perl has expanded from its humble beginnings to let users perform a wide variety of tasks. Before you can use it to do any of those tasks, however, you must install it. That is the focus of this article, the first in a series that will teach you the basics of Perl programming.
It was a snowy winter, and Larry Wall sat huddled around his fireplace, sipping hot cocoa and listening to Poison's, "Nothing but a Good Time." The collars of his red leather imitation Michael Jackson jacket were no doubt standing straight on end, while the light from the flames glinted off the 4,000 totally unnecessary yet cool zippers on that same jacket. On his left hand he wore a white glove covered in Cheetoh dust; on the right...nothing at all.
It was nearing midnight, and something evil was lurking in the dark. Larry Wall heard the door slam and tried to scream, but terror gripped him beyond his imagination. Tee-hee. (Yes, those are the lyrics from MJ's Thriller; if you didn't know that, then go buy that album and listen to it until your hair turns into a greasy jerry-curled mess).
It is no little wonder then, that under those conditions, Larry Wall chose to name his new programming language after a biblical story: The Parable of Pearl (Gospel of Matthew for all you heathens out there). Maybe he thought doing so would scare off that evil thing lurking in the dark. Coincidentally, Michael Jackson was that scary thing.
He was also probably tired and delirious, seeing as how he reportedly read every three and four letter word from the dictionary trying to choose a name. Personally, if Michael Jackson was creeping around my pad after midnight, I could think of a bevy of four letter words I would have used.
But Wall had a solid head on his shoulders. He even thought about using his wife's name, Gloria, but decided against it for two reasons: 1) He didn't want four million nerds moaning his wife's name into the wee hours of the morning, and 2) He had just written that hit song, "Gloria" and saw no need to.
So he chose Pearl. Then he discovered there was already a programming language called that, so he cursed a lot and changed it to Perl.
Whatever happened to Michael Jackson that night, the world will never know...
(Note: Perl is not a typo. Well it is, but an intentional one. And although some people believe PERL stands for "Practical Extraction and Report Language," those people are wrong and have too much time on their hands).