Being asked to write a piece celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary, in essence a Silver Celebration, since the first release of the Perl Programming language was both a joy and a terror. Where would I start, what would I include, what approach should I take? It is a significant prospect as the sheer depth of history can only be matched by the breadth of influence that Perl has had over the previous quarter of a century. Then there was the inevitable consequences of having some information opinion based, common misconceptions or just not documented.1
My reaction was to think of all the elements that I knew made up the Perl Language and Community and to hold them aloft and groan as unlike Atlas I am unable to hold up the heavens.2 There was an awfully large number of diverse elements that made up the phenomena known as Perl. So what then to do?
This, therefore, is a personal journey with some elements gained from common research, I have decided to do a retrospective of the community and history, there are many things you will find familiar, hopefully some that you will find new and one or two that are established fact and good to be reminded off.
I am indebted to all the others who did a large portion of the leg work from the general nature of being members of the organisations, development, community and projects; to the specific where I have leaned heavily on the knowledge of luminaries such as Dave Cross whose excellent presentation at the London Perl Workshop forms the Year by Year Repose. I am also deeply indebted to the information contained on the many Perl sites and to the elements on Wikipedia, please see the references for more information.
All mistakes, conjecture, opinions and assorted paraphernalia are my own, where I have used material from others that may be in question it is a failure in my judgement for its inclusion and not the fault of the original author.
I would ask you to note that each section that has footnotes has then printed at the base of that section before I move on and therefore the numbering correctly re-starts each time. The Sections are: Introduction; The Community; The Events; The Code; The Written Word; Towards A Future; A Year by Year Repose; Sources.
I would also like to thank Karen Pauley for being an excellent editor and accurately questioning all the silly things I have taken out, anything silly that remains is still my responsibility.
In the Beginning...
The beginnings are rather simple, and maybe a little mundane; Larry Wall (Tim Toady) released version 1.0 to the newsgroup comp.sources.misc on the 18th December 1987 while working as a programmer at Unisys. Perl was intended, we believe, to be a Unix scripting language to make report processing easier borrowing from sh, Awk and Sed.
Perl 2 was released in 1988 and added more features and a better regular expression engine, this was followed by Perl 3 in 1989, Perl 4 in 1991 to coincide with the Camel Book, until finally we have Perl 5 in 1994. Perl 5 was a major shift in the release of version numbers which I will touch upon below. Perl 6 started its life cycle in 2000 with a different principle to other versions of Perl. It was a complete re-write of the language and would start as a language specification before a release leading to the now apocryphal 'released in time for Christmas' line.
The development of Perl 5 continued both before and alongside that of Perl 6,3 though it is interesting to note that there have been several major changes which could have been considered major version releases in previous versions of Perl. It is common these days for Perl 5 to be considered the language name with its point release being the version, hence the current version of Perl 5 is 16. Perl 5.6 was released in 2000; 5.8 was released and under constant development during 2002-08; version .10 released in 2007 for the 20th anniversary of Perl; version .12 was released in 2010, at this time Perl moved to a monthly release cycle with a yearly stable release, hence .14 was released in 2011 and .16 in 2012.
Perl 6 has influenced a number of changes, or backwards implemented as some would have it, in Perl 5 as well as having a number of implementations of its language specification such as Pugs (by Audrey Tang in Haskell), Niecza and Rakudo*. It has been a long standing source of humour that Perl 6 would be released in time for Christmas, but we didn't say
which Christmas, the truth is that there are implementations of Perl 6 and the language itself is a specification that is under development. There are a number of projects, modules and libraries on CPAN that use Perl 6 and the production deployments continue to grow.
This is just the start of the journey as we now take a look at some of the many parts of the quarter century of Perl progress...
 Then there is the inevitable variance in story by conjecture that allows us to ponder what is really truth and what is merely just recalled as being the truth.
 If I recall correctly he only held up the skies not the whole planet unlike that lying statue suggests.
 We shall have to note that there were the wilderness years when two communities arose that seemed not only divergent in focus, but also disagreeable in nature. These wilderness years coincided with the rise of languages such as PhP, Python and Ruby (though more specifically the popularity of the Rails framework).
These arguments were the inevitable consequence of the enthusiasm for each language by the active members of those communities. Today we can proudly say that we are one Perl community with two Perl languages, Perl 5 and its variants and Perl 6 with its. From the two, it is apparent that Perl 6 has pushed the envelope in regards to language design and specifications leading to implementations such as Pugs and Rakudo while also inspiring changes in Perl 5 such as Moose.
It is a widely held belief1 that Perl has one of the best, if not the best, communities in the Open Source world. It is certainly true that it is a long established community and one that can be very rewarding to be a member.
From the very early days of the language there was a strong move towards 'grassroots' or natural community development. Before Perl had reached a point release between 1987-88 we had seen the first JAPH (Just Another Perl Hacker) snippet run wild across the newsgroups and that was likely the start of many programmers need to be identified as having Perl skills.
In those early days the majority of communication was conducted on newsgroups, in particular the now famous comp.lang.perl where Perl pioneers such as Randal Schwartz, Tom Christiansen, Len Wiseman, Steve Simmons and Marion Hakanson (see: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en&fromgroups#!forum/comp.lang.perl) along with Larry Wall, met and discussed Perl issues.
The first O'Reilly Perl conference was not until 1997 in San Jose, California, a decade since the language was first released and three years after Perl 5 was birthed to the world. At that conference many of the people who had been communicating simply with lines of text met face to face and realised that wasn't such a bad idea. Following this conference the very first Perl Monger group, the New York Perl Mongers was formed by brian d foy and other members of the New York Perlers which was quickly followed by a group in Boston.
The O'Reilly Perl Conference would eventually mutate into the OSCON conference which still runs in Portland each July. The Perl Mongers grew to one hundred groups in its first year as recorded at the second O'Reilly Perl Conference and now has more than one hundred and fifty groups.
The original idea was that Perl Monger group names would be based on the name of a geographical location, hence we have London.pm, Boston.pm etc. A pun was used for the .pm as this is an extension for a Perl file and also an acronym of Perl Mongers. Today a number of other groups are also part of the Perl Monger family, there is Dahut.pm named for a mythical beast and refers to a non-geographical group of organisers/members; there is Les Mongueurs du Perl (The Mongers of Perl) which is taken by a collection of French groups who organise events such as the French Perl Workshop, Perl QA Hackathon and OSDC (Open Source Developers Conference); in the community we also have drinkers.pm a group dedicated to the consumption of sweet liquor and LGBT.pm (who might also be known as Equality.pm) which was started by @techpractical to reflect the broad nature of our diverse community.
Many of the Perl Mongers groups organise technical presentations and social meetings. These meetings act as a good way to pass information on latest developments in Perl or on the broader technical world and jobs markets, we also use the community resource jobs.perl.org for the same reason.
The Perl Community have always organised themselves into running a variety of local events, from regular Perl meetings, hackathons, training sessions, workshops and even the yearly YAPCs (Yet Another Perl Conference). Conferences are usually hosted by a local group who bids for the privilege, some groups have run more than one event and many have run more than one in a single year.
Such is the importance of community that Perl has its own awards that are handed to community members who have made a significant contribution to the state of Perl and the community. This award was initiated by the Perl Mongers and O'Reilly & Associates at the Perl Conference in 1999 and has been awarded yearly since then, the scheme is managed by brian d foy.
The Perl Mongers have always been more of a social endeavour focussing on the meeting in the real world of like minded individuals to share and express their thoughts and converse2, but since late 1999 there has been a location for the technically curious.
If you have a question about Perl and wish to progress along a path of almost devout following then you can enter the Monastery of Perl and join the Perl Monks.3 The Perl Monks website, FAQ and posts are intended to be a user-focussed resource of information, in many ways it is almost a CPAN for documentation. The site predates many of the more social systems that have become popular in recent years but contains a vast store of collected knowledge and experience to help new initiates upon their path to understanding.
There are a number of organisations in the Perl Community4 which seems confusing to those who are uninitiated with the vast complexity of a global community with diverse aims and needs. There are legal matters of dealing with different countries, the focus of the organisation, such is the vast range of different elements to the Perl world one organisation would have quite a split in attention.
The largest of these organisations are The Perl Foundation, YAPC Europe Foundation, Japanese Perl Association and The Enlightened Perl Organisation. These groups can be seen as complementary, not contradictory, groups with overlapping areas of focus and differing duties.
The Perl Foundation
In 1999 Kevin Lenzo formed the organisation Yet Another Society (YAS) to help to organise the Perl conferences in North America. This organisation would eventually become known as the Perl Foundation. The original premise of the Perl Foundation was to help run the grassroots events in the Perl Community for North America, and to help the conference organisers with banking and organisation.
Over the last decade the focus of the Perl Foundation has shifted and grown so that along with helping to fund, organise and support North American Perl conferences it has evolved to handle grants and bounties for extending, amending and evolving both Perl 5 and Perl 6 throughout the world.
The Perl Foundation has also secured the rights for the Perl logo, artistic licence 2.0 and trademarks, the Onion and the name Perl when used in conjunction are a Trademark in many countries. It has helped the JPA overturn a trademark case in Japan which would have had potential issues for Perl.
Today, under the steady guidance of the current President, Karen Pauley, the Perl Foundation has become deeply involved with the worldwide Perl community. The Perl Foundation has extended its mission to improve and evolve Perl and to promote and support community. There are committees to handle marketing, grants, funding and the recent Perl Advocacy committee to work in the community.
The Perl Foundation is run entirely by volunteers who give up their time simply to help support the greater community, they are also proud to embrace diversity and the evolution of the community, the Perl Foundation survives solely from the generous sponsorship, donations and fund raising.
YAPC Europe Foundation
YEF was formed in 2003 with the mission to help promote and support the growing YAPC::Europe. YEF was a desire to offer the same support and services to the European Conference scene that TPF was founded for in the United States.
YEF provide a framework to help organise many of the yearly conferences in Europe as well as supporting the other European events such as hackathons. YEF survives on donations and like TPF is staffed entirely by volunteers.
Japanese Perl Association
The JPA was founded to help organise the yearly YAPC::Asia which has been held for many years in Tokyo due to the concentration of organisers and the need for a centrally accessible location. YAPC::Asia is currently the world's largest Perl conference with over 600 atendees.
In recent years the JPA has also fought, and won, an important battle for the control of the name Perl in Japan with the help of the Perl Foundation
Enlightened Perl Organisation
The EPO was formed in March 2008 to celebrate and encourage the shift from what was perceived as a Renaissance in Perl to a more Modern Perl for the twenty-first century. Since the release of Perl 5.8 there was a shift in thinking for Perl 5 and a recognition that it was a language in its own right sharing a common root with Perl 6 but having a separate identity. The EPO was formed to further promote and support this evolving situation and community.
Unlike the three other organisations the EPO does not support any one specific conference or agenda but rather lends its support and business services to a range of them, from the Perl QA Hackathon, the London Perl Workshop, YAPC::Brazil and YAPC::Europe.
The EPO also runs a number of initiatives and projects for the broader community such as the Send-a-Newbie initiative whose aim is to give financial aid in sending people new to a Perl conference to a major event; the support of CPAN Testers with the raising of funds and handling of costs; supporting grants for development and sponsoring diverse elements such as logo competitions.
The EPO is a membership organisation and gains funds from membership, donation and sponsorship. It hopes to promote the tighter cohesion between business and community and to further enhance this union. It is staffed entirely by volunteers.
A retrospective of the Perl World has to make some mention of the many logos of the Perl Community. Once again this is a rather eclectic list, there are many logos that were omitted such as logos for CPAN Testers, DBIx::Clagass, Catalyst, Dancer and Mojolicious in an effort to tell a slice of the story from the most visible elements.
The first logo that can be said to be used in conjunction with Perl is the Camel. This was the logo that O'Reilly decided to use for the Programming Perl book and became synonymous in the early days with the Perl Community. The Camel is owned by O'Reilly, but they allow the Perl Community to use it on its associated community s