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Larry Wall - People

Larry Wall originally created Perl while a programmer at Unisys. He now works full time guiding the future development of the language as a researcher and developer at O'Reilly & Associates. Larry is known for his idiosyncratic and thought-provoking approach to programming, as well as for his groundbreaking contributions to the culture of free software programming. He is the principal author of the bestselling Programming Perl, known colloquially as "the Camel book."

A snippet from an interview of Larry Wall in the Linux Journal gives this description of why the language is named perl.

"I wanted a short name with positive connotations. (I would never name a language ``Scheme'' or ``Python'', for instance.) I actually looked at every three- and four-letter word in the dictionary and rejected them all. I briefly toyed with the idea of naming it after my wife, Gloria, but that promised to be confusing on the domestic front. Eventually I came up with the name ``pearl'', with the gloss Practical Extraction and Report Language. The 'a' was still in the name when I made that one up. But I heard rumors of some obscure graphics language named 'pearl', so I shortened it to ``perl''. (The ``a'' had already disappeared by the time I gave Perl its alternate gloss, Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister.)

Another interesting tidbit is that the name ``perl'' wasn't capitalized at first. UNIX was still very much a lower-case-only OS at the time. In fact, I think you could call it an anti-upper-case OS. It's a bit like the folks who start posting on the Net and affect not to capitalize anything. Eventually, most of them come back to the point where they realize occasional capitalization is useful for efficient communication. In Perl's case, we realized about the time of Perl 4 that it was useful to distinguish between ``perl'' the program and ``Perl'' the language. If you find a first edition of the Camel Book, you'll see that the title was Programming perl, with a small ``p''. Nowadays, the title is Programming Perl. "