A co-worker asked me today if I had heard of a language called “perl”. The programmers have been talking of various languages ever since one came back from Codemash. This particular co-worker turns to me whenever she finds something that she doesn’t really understand.

Hearing her question really made me think about it. I used perl back in college, in the late 90s. I remember the headaches I would get, just trying to read its syntax. Thankfully I had a friend who really understood things like regular expressions and could put it to me in words I could understand. As soon as he explained it to me in plain English, I started understanding Perl.

Perl helped me understand a lot of fundamental concepts that HTML couldn’t teach me. It was a difficult language for me to get a grasp of at first, as my background was more along the lines of BASIC and Visual Basic. However, it helped me to see just what was out there waiting for me.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I used Perl, as it’s been that long. If I had to read a Perl script today, I could follow its syntax. However, if I had to write one from scratch, I’d be turning to a couple references – like perl.org documentation or my trusty copy of the camel book.

Perl has survived 20 years. How much longer does it have? With players like PHP, Python, and Ruby making footprints on the Web, Perl’s CGI scripts footprint definitely losing its place. But after 20 years, it’s only a matter of time before it’s totally replaced.

What will be the next Perl? It’ll be interesting to see what maintains a lifetime as long as Perl, with the power that Perl had.