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History of awk and gawk

Recipe For A Programming Language

1 part egrep1 part snobol
2 parts ed3 parts C

Blend all parts well using lex and yacc. Document minimally and release.

After eight years, add another part egrep and two more parts C. Document very well and release.

The name awk comes from the initials of its designers: Alfred V. Aho, Peter J. Weinberger and Brian W. Kernighan. The original version of awk was written in 1977 at AT&T Bell Laboratories. In 1985, a new version made the programming language more powerful, introducing user-defined functions, multiple input streams, and computed regular expressions. This new version became widely available with Unix System V Release 3.1 (1987). The version in System V Release 4 (1989) added some new features and cleaned up the behavior in some of the “dark corners” of the language. The specification for awk in the POSIX Command Language and Utilities standard further clarified the language. Both the gawk designers and the original Bell Laboratories awk designers provided feedback for the POSIX specification.

Paul Rubin wrote the GNU implementation, gawk, in 1986. Jay Fenlason completed it, with advice from Richard Stallman. John Woods contributed parts of the code as well. In 1988 and 1989, David Trueman, with help from me, thoroughly reworked gawk for compatibility with the newer awk. Circa 1994, I became the primary maintainer. Current development focuses on bug fixes, performance improvements, standards compliance, and occasionally, new features.

In May of 1997, Jürgen Kahrs felt the need for network access from awk, and with a little help from me, set about adding features to do this for gawk. At that time, he also wrote the bulk of TCP/IP Internetworking with gawk (a separate document, available as part of the gawk distribution). His code finally became part of the main gawk distribution with gawk version 3.1.

John Haque rewrote the gawk internals, in the process providing an awk-level debugger. This version became available as gawk version 4.0, in 2011.

See section Major Contributors to gawk, for a complete list of those who made important contributions to gawk.

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