Brian Kernighan adds unicode support to AWK

For the Unix world, this news is something along the lines of “Moses appeared and announced an addition to the ten commandments.”

AWK, a programming language for parsing text files, is a key part of Unix systems—including Linux, BSD, and more. For an OS to be considered POSIX compliant, it must turn on A.W.K. AWK first appeared in 1977 and was included in Version 7 UNIX in 1979, the last version of UNIX from Bell Labs before AT&T made it commercial.

In the fact that it receives Unicode support, it’s not even the feature itself that is more noticeable, but who was involved in its implementation: Canadian computer scientist Brian Kernighan.

The name AWK is an acronym derived from the names of its three founders: Alfred Aho (owner Turing Award), Peter Weinberger and Brian Kernighan. Kernighan is also the letter “K” in the title “K&R C”: the 1978 classic book “The C Programming Language” written by Kernighan and great Dennis Ritchie.

This book not only fixed the version of the C language now known as C78, ​​but even the style of indentation. Its influence is so great that in old-school Unix circles the book is sometimes called “Old Testament” and indentation – “the only true style.”

There are different versions of AWK, but now we are talking about the original, known as One True AWK. Code changes described on GitHub with the humble words “Add BWK’s email”. In the letter, the professor modestly remarks:

“As soon as I figure it out and test more, I will try to send a pull request. I wish I had a better understanding of git, but despite your help, I still don’t have a complete understanding, so it might take a while.”

Well, here I am [автор исходного текста в The Register Лайам Прувен — прим. переводчика] I understand him well. Yours truly is 54 years old and can’t figure out Git, while Kernighan is already 80.

Kernighan also came up with the name “UNIX” and the idea of ​​demonstrating a programming language with “hello, world”: he did this for language B, the predecessor of C. And about C, he argued:

I have nothing to do with the creation of C, period. This is entirely the work of Dennis Ritchie. I wrote a tutorial on using C for Bell Labs employees, and I twisted Dennis’ arms to write a book with me.

Kernighan has written a number of other notable books, including in recent years: The Go Programming Language (2015), Understanding the Digital World (2017), Unix: A History and a Memoir (2019).

It is important to remember that software like Unix is ​​not a scripture that has been passed from hand to hand untouchable since prehistoric times. Most of the people who designed, implemented and formed such projects are still with us today. In this case, the change in the code happened a few months ago, but was only noticed by the world now thanks to a new interview with Professor Kernighan:

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