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3: Overview of Regular Expression Featur... > A Casual Stroll Across the Regex Lan...

A Casual Stroll Across the Regex Landscape

I’d like to start with the story about the evolution of some regular expression flavors and their associated programs. So, grab a hot cup (or frosty mug) of your favorite brewed beverage and relax as we look at the sometimes wacky history behind the regular expressions we have today. The idea is to add color to our regex understanding, and to develop a feeling as to why “the way things are” are the way things are. There are some footnotes for those that are interested, but for the most part, this should be read as a light story for enjoyment.

The Origins of Regular Expressions

The seeds of regular expressions were planted in the early 1940s by two neuro-physiologists, Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, who developed models of how they believed the nervous system worked at the neuron level. Regular expressions became a reality several years later when mathematician Stephen Kleene formally described these models in an algebra he called regular sets. He devised a simple notation to express these regular sets, and called them regular expressions.


  

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