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6. AWK > Waiting for a Breakthrough

Waiting for a Breakthrough

How would you change AWK to improve the support for big programs?

Peter: Given all that’s happened in between, the question is, would we have come up with Perl or would we have come up with something else? Well, I don’t think we have the right kind of minds to have come up with all of Perl, but if you look at the spirit of what was going on with AWK, if you thought it should be used for big programs, something like that would be possible.

I think the other answer is we stopped when we stopped because it seemed like a good place to stop. I don’t know if I’ve told this story—I think it’s only months, but in retrospect, it might have been a couple years after AWK had been released internally—I got a call from somebody in the computer center who was having some trouble with AWK, and I went down to look at his program and we had thought of AWK as I described it, short one-liners, little things, OK? And he had written an assembler for some esoteric piece of hardware in AWK and it was 55 pages of code. We were just stunned. In fact it’s not so strange you can do that; people certainly wrote longer programs in languages with less structure, but it was quite surprising to us.


  

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