Unix legend, who owes us nothing, keeps fixing foundational AWK code

Enlarge / Brian Kernighan talking at a tribute to his Bell Labs coworker and The C Programming Language co-author Dennis Ritchie in 2012. Ritchie’s visage in dominoes is behind Kernighan.

A Princeton professor, discovering a bit of time for himself in the summertime tutorial lull, emailed an outdated good friend a pair months in the past. Brian Kernighan stated good day, requested how their US go to was going, and dropped off lots of of traces of code that would add Unicode assist for AWK, the text-parsing software he helped create for Unix at Bell Labs in 1977.

“I have tested this a fair amount but clearly more tests are needed,” Kernighan wrote within the e mail, posted in late May as a type of pseudo-commit on the onetrueawk repo by longtime maintainer Arnold Robbins. “Once I figure out how … I will try to submit a pull request. I wish I understood git better, but in spite of your help, I still don’t have a proper understanding, so this may take a while.”

Kernighan is the “K” in AWK, a special-purpose language for extracting and manipulating language that was key to Unix’s pipeline options and interoperability between methods. A working awk perform (AWK is the language, awk the command to invoke it) is important to each Standard UNIX Specification and IEEE POSIX certification for interoperability. There are numerous variants of awk—together with trendy derivations with assist for Unicode—however “One True AWK,” typically referred to as nawk, is a type of canonical model based mostly on Kernighan’s 1985 e book The AWK Programming Language and his subsequent enter.

Copies of <em>The C Programming Language</em> in their native campus bookstore environment, written by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (RIP).” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/c-programming.jpg” width=”300″ peak=”169″/></p><p>Copies of The C Programming Language of their native campus bookstore surroundings, written by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (RIP).</p><div class='code-block code-block-1' style='margin: 8px auto; text-align: center; display: block; clear: both;'><script async src=

Kernighan can also be the “K” in “K&R C,” the foundational 1978 e book The C Programming Language he cowrote with Dennis Ritchie that sticks with programmers, mentally and in dog-eared paper type. C’s roots go a lot deeper. Kernighan had been instructing C to staff at Bell Labs and satisfied its creator, Ritchie, to collaborate on a e book to unfold the information. That e book gave delivery to “the one true brace style,” the limitless debate that goes with it, and the construction underpinning each trendy programming language.


Kernighan additionally named Unix and first demonstrated the “Hello, world” code instance. He spoke with Ars Technica’s Richard Jensen for a fiftieth anniversary historical past of Unix.

The onetrueawk repository, the place Kernighan appeared in late May, is a comparatively quiet place, with 21 contributors, 46 GitHub customers watching, and commits coming each few months. As famous by The Register, Kernighan’s Unicode repair got here to mild principally as a result of it was talked about in an interview with the professor by YouTube channel Computerphile.

My favourite video.

“It’s always been an embarrassment that AWK only worked with ASCII, or maybe 8-bit inputs, but it doesn’t really handle Unicode at all,” Kernighan tells interviewer professor David Brailsford. “A few months ago, I spent some time working with (laughs) an incredibly old program. I have it at this point where it will actually handle UTF-8 input and output so that you can have regular expressions that, you know, pick up Japanese characters, things like that.”

Kernighan, now 80, offhandedly mentions within the interview that he has additionally patched one thing “quick and dirty” to let AWK deal with CSV information.


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