“All About Regular Expressions…

If you write software, you probably use regular expressions frequently in your code, in developer tooling and even maybe in database queries.

But where did they come from? How did the token ^ come to mean “the start of a line”? You might know that “PCRE” means “Perl Compatible Regular Expression” but why is Perl singled out? And maybe you’re aware that the developers of golang were originally wary about including regular expressions in their language design. Why? Are regular expressions – gasp – dangerous?

In this talk we will examine the historical origins of regular expressions and various implementations of regular expressions in programming languages old and new(er). We will discuss why some regular expressions are “bad” and how inefficiencies can be avoided or minimized.

Jade Allen
Nova Labs, Software Developer

Jade has been a software developer and dev-ops person for a really long time. She is interested in functional programming, distributed computing and computing history topics. She writes mostly Erlang for her day job.

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8 thoughts on ““All About Regular Expressions…

  1. Dr Philip Hazel wrote PCRE at Cambridge University in the late 1990s. In the older days of the Phoenix operating system (1980 or so), I used his ZED editor every day. When I approached him to ask if I could see the source code for it, he kindly steered me towards the BCPL version which was easier to understand than IBM 370/165 assembler.

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