Perl and Nuclear Weapons Don't Mix - The Perl Journal, Winter 1997

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2024-04-02 12:00:07

Perl is used quite a bit at NORAD, which gave up ADA long ago when it became evident that ADA programmers weren't the sort of people you want creating missile guidance systems. (Same goes for C++.) At first, my supervisor balked at Perl, as he does at anything new, but he softened to the idea when I told him that it had been designed for exactly this purpose and that PERL itself stood for "Precision Entry and Reentry Launchings," a lie that would later be repeated over and over again at my court-martial.

Regrettably, my ex-employers don't want me talking about my work: software systems for missile flight calibrations. But a few stories should be okay, since I think they'll tell you more about Perl than about national security. I don't mean to alarm anyone by what follows, but you should know just how close we came to a nuclear armageddon because of my misunderstanding of basic Perl concepts. Sorry.

In March 1996, I was told to write a program to calculate the effect on thrust from a proposed modification to the alloy composition of Nike missiles. The first step was parsing a file full of rivet locations that looked like this:

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