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Larry Wall Wins Free Software Foundation Award

October 19, 1998

Sebastopol, CA--Larry Wall, the creator of several popular free software programs, has won the first Free Software Foundation Award for the Advancement of Free Software. Wall was honored for "his many contributions to the advancement of freely distributed software," according to the Free Software Foundation. The award was granted on October 9 in at Masschusetts Institute of Technology. Wall's most well-known product is Perl, a powerful scripting language used by system administrators and web developers for sophisticated text manipulation, system management and active Web pages. There are about one million Perl programmers worldwide, with a core of more than 450 on the Perl porters mailing list, who are most active in its development and maintenance.

Wall, Senior Software Developer at O'Reilly & Associates, also won the award for creating rn, a widely-used news reader; patch, a development and distribution tool; metaconfig, which writes Configure scripts; and the Warp space-war game.

In granting the award, the Free Software Foundation said, "Larry Wall has always promoted keeping his implementations free for all to study, enhance, and build on, without restrictions, and the freedom for all to benefit in whatever ways they can from his products." They called Perl "a tool that takes the UNIX ideas of flexibility and portability further than almost any program before it."

Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO, O'Reilly & Associates, stated:

    Larry's influence on modern computing goes well beyond Perl. The Internet, and in fact much of the innovation that is driving the current boom in Silicon Valley and Redmond, largely grew out of an academic and research community in which the sharing of source code, and the ability to build on the work of your peers, was taken for granted. Larry's patch program allowed people to share modifications to existing programs and to merge divergent source trees, encouraging a style of distributed software development that has proven to be the most powerful methodology available. Similarly, Larry's idiosyncratic Perl language turned out to be a key enabler for the explosion of active content on the World Wide Web. While industry hype focussed on Java and ActiveX, Perl quietly stole the market, becoming a key component of the next generation "information applications" at Yahoo, Amazon.com, and tens of thousands of other leading sites.

Wall has won other honors, including the Dr. Dobb's 1996 Excellence in Programming Award, and the SAGE (System Administrators Guild) 1994 Outstanding Achievement Award. Perl won the WebTechniques/WebReview 1997 Editor's Choice Award for Scripting Language. Wall has received wide coverage in the press, including in Salon and Dr. Dobb's Journal.

The Free Software Foundation awards committee members are Peter Salus (Chairman), Scott Christley, Rich Morin, Adam Richter, Richard Stallman, and Vernor Vinge.

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