Let's organise a free teach-in

muppet scott at asofyet.org
Sat Feb 17 04:30:13 GMT 2007

On Feb 16, 2007, at 3:16 PM, Jonathan Stowe wrote:

> What I'd be more interested in would be how and why people here  
> learned Perl.

I learned Perl twice, both times on a job.

First time was when i was doing student work as a unix sysadmin at my  
college.  A traffic engineering grad student (only in America, eh?)  
needed to extract some data from a huge text database file and was  
having trouble with it.  My boss told me that this would be easily  
done in Perl, "just do this and this and a few open()s and a few  
associative arrays, and just read the camel."  I wrote a very crappy  
script that got the job done and made the guy very happy.

The second time was two years later, at my real job.  The data coming  
off our expensive data capture system consisted of large tab- 
delimited tables of numbers in mactext files.  Based on what you  
twiddled in a some UI box on the mac, the columns in the data would  
move around.  So, i needed a way to extract only the information i  
needed from these files regardless of how my cow-orkers unwittingly  
screwed things up.  Perl to the rescue.  $/="\r", split(/\t/),  
creating hashes keyed by the string in the first row of data...  As i  
needed to do more sophisticated stuff, i learned more Perl.  I also  
learned about the importance of data formats, data  
interchangeability, good APIs, backward compatibility, and high  
modularity by doing the exactly wrong thing in every one of those  
areas at least once.

We wound up with database interactions (DBI), user interfaces (gtk- 
perl, gtk2-perl), and actual bit-banging (in-house extensions), in  
addition to the traditional text-munging (heavy regexen) before i  
finally left the project.  Now i understand some young hotshot in  
that department wants to port everything to python...

Doing a good job around here is like wetting your pants in a dark  
suit; you get a warm feeling, but no one notices.
   -- unknown

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