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History of This Book

 
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History of This Book

For the curious, here's how Randal tells the story of how this book came about:

After I had finished the first Programming Perl book with Larry Wall (in 1991), I was approached by Taos Mountain Software in Silicon Valley to produce a training course. This included having me deliver the first dozen or so courses and train its staff to continue offering the course. I wrote the course for the company[*] and delivered it as promised.

[*] In the contract, I retained the rights to the exercises, hoping someday to reuse them in some other way, like in the magazine columns I was writing at the time. The exercises are the only things that leapt from the Taos course to the book.

On the third or fourth delivery of that course (in late 1991), someone came up to me and said, "You know, I really like Programming Perl, but the way the material is presented in this course is so much easier to follow. You oughtta write a book like this course." It sounded like an opportunity to me, so I started thinking about it.

I wrote to Tim O'Reilly with a proposal based on an outline that was similar to the course I was presenting for Taos, though I had rearranged and modified a few of the chapters based on observations in the classroom. I think that was my fastest proposal acceptance in history; I got a message from Tim within 15 minutes saying, "We've been waiting for you to pitch a second bookProgramming Perl is selling like gangbusters." That started the effort over the next 18 months to finish the first edition of Learning Perl.

During that time, I was starting to see an opportunity to teach Perl classes outside Silicon Valley,[History of This Book] so I created a class based on the text I was writing for Learning Perl. I gave a dozen classes for various clients (including my primary contractor, Intel Oregon), and used the feedback to fine-tune the book draft even further.

[History of This Book] My Taos contract had a no-compete clause, so I had to stay out of Silicon Valley with any similar courses, which I respected for many years.

The first edition hit the streets on the first day of November 1993[History of This Book] and became a smashing success, frequently even outpacing Programming Perl book sales.

[History of This Book] I remember that date well, because it was also the day I was arrested at my home for computer-related activities around my Intel contract, a series of felony charges for which I was later convicted. See http://www.lightlink.com/fors/ for details.

The back-cover jacket of the first book said "written by a leading Perl trainer." Well, that became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Within a few months, I was starting to get email from people all over the United States asking me to teach at their site. During the following seven years, my company became the leading worldwide on-site Perl training company, and I had personally racked up (literally) a million frequent-flier miles. It didn't hurt that the Web started taking off about then, and the webmasters and webmistresses picked Perl as the language of choice for content management, interaction through CGI, and maintenance.

For two years, I worked closely with Tom Phoenix in his role as lead trainer and content manager for Stonehenge, giving him charter to experiment with the "Llama" course by moving things around and breaking things up. When we had come up with what we thought was the best major revision of the course, I contacted O'Reilly and said "it's time for a new book!" And that became the third edition.

Two years after writing the third edition of the Llama, Tom and I decided it was time to push our follow-on "advanced" course out into the world as a book for people writing programs that are "100 to 10,000 lines of code." And together we created the first Alpaca book, released in 2003.

But fellow instructor brian d foy was just getting back from the conflict in the Gulf, and he had noticed that we could use some rewriting in both books because our courseware needed to track the changing needs of the typical student. So, he pitched the idea to O'Reilly to take on rewriting both the Llama and the Alpaca one final time before Perl 6 (we hope). This edition of the Llama reflects those changes. brian has been the lead writer here, working with my occasional guidance, and has done a brillant job of the usual "herding cats" that a multiple-writer team generally feels like.

Some of the differences you may notice from prior editions:

  • The text has been updated for the latest version of Perl, Perl 5.8.

  • We've combined some chapters, and renumbered others. We've beefed up the regular expression chapters and introduced filehandles sooner.

  • We've added a chapter on CPAN, which has become much more important to beginners.

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