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Intro to Perl for CGI
by Colin Ferm 25 Nov 1998

Colin Ferm is a production manager here at Wired Digital. He's also a movie maker, a Pepper, and a Howard the Duck evangelist.

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So you've decided to take the plunge. After learning a CGI hack or two, you're ready to learn CGI scripting for real. Beware: Many have been tempted to walk down this path, but few have returned. It's not that it's especially hard, you just have to be patient and willing to learn. Afraid? No? You will be.... you will be.

This article will get you started with CGI scripting, the force that makes your forms work, your counters count, and all kinds of other things happen. CGI scripts can be written in a variety of computer languages, but my favorite is Perl, which also just happens to be one of the most used languages for CGI scripting. So before we tackle CGI, today we'll max out your gray matter on this damn-near-holy language.

Some people feel that the benefits of learning Perl scripting are few. But at the end of the day, learning how to do it right gives you the satisfaction of a script well done. It's kind of like being a cop. You don't change the world, but you do your small part. That's right. Learning Perl is just like being a cop.

But before embarking on this mystical quest, make sure you have a few things:

  1. A trusty server capable of handling the monster script you will one day write or, shall I say, compose.
  2. A good monitor. This is important since you'll spend many an hour looking at the tube, and your eyes will bug under the strain of peering at a small or wavy monitor.
  3. A good source of stimulation: Dr. Pepper, Jolt, coffee, whatever. Just make sure you've got a lot of it.
  4. A pack of cigarettes. These will calm your nerves, but the fetching scent will rob you of all sex appeal, allowing you to concentrate fully on writing killer Perl scripts.
  5. Basic food rations. Scripting is best done in short bursts of 24- to 36- hour blocks of time. Leaving to get food is not an option.
  6. A copy of O'Reilly & Associates' Programming Perl and Learning Perl. These are the best references on the market.
Are you ready? You're not gonna wuss on me now, are you? C'mon, we're just talking basics here.

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