Very nice recap.  +1.

On 11/26/2018 1:50 PM, Neil Van Dyke wrote:

* the alternative to Perl was usually C or early C++ (though extension languages like Tcl and Python were starting to kick around; but Tcl's main use was relatively easy GUI development, and Python was just a bare language without libraries when Perl already had lots); and

Minor addition:

At the beginning, Perl was used mainly for text processing and report generation.  It was only later as it gained a significant number of libraries that it developed into a more useful general purpose tool.

Early on, the (much) better alternative to Perl was SNOBOL4 - a pattern matching language based on context free grammar that was far more powerful than Perl's regular expressions, and already was well established long before Perl existed.  SNOBOL4 was developed in the late 60's, and through the 70's and 80's, for many people it was the GOTO tool for heavy duty text processing and report generation.

SNOBOL4 was a portable virtual machine implementation.  There were versions available for most common platforms, including IBM PC, and there even was a C macro implementation that could be embedded and used anywhere a C compiler was available.

SNOBOL4 did not have built-in database access, nor did it really have libraries [but its scripts were composable], so when Perl came along, it had a minor technical advantage in its extensibility.  But typically SNOBOL4 would be used in pipeline fashion, receiving and transforming input, e.g., from a database query tool.  SNOBOL4's popularly spawned several enhanced descendant languages - SPITBOL, Icon, Unicon, etc. - that co-existed with early Perl, also featured library extensibility, and SNOBOL4's more powerful text processing ability.

Unfortunately, the better tool doesn't always win.

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