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Elizabeth Mattijsen
Elizabeth Mattijsen

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Winding down

I've been programming more or less professionally for a living since 1978. And I still am 45 years later, because it's something that I like to do a lot. You could argue I've never worked a day in my life, because I was able to turn my hobby into a living. And you wouldn't be very wrong!

PLATOIt all started for me when in the fall of 1977, two PLATO terminals were placed in the library of the Physics building where I was trying to study Astronomy.

Having always been interested in computers, these new terminals (512x512 monochrome graphics, touch panel, instantaneous execution of programs) proved irresistible to me. By comparison: to be able to use the University mainframe computer, you had to punch cards and had to hand them over at a counter to an operator. Only to hear 20 minutes later that a period had been forgotten and that the whole job had been abandoned.

The PLATO terminal, hooked up via satellite to a mainframe in Minneapolis, was much more responsive: type in your program, press SHIFT-STOP, and your program would be running. Immediately. On your screen! It provided me with a means to channel my creativity that could not find an outlet in my study of Astronomy.

Needless to say, a lot of hours were clocked behind the terminal. Soon the first program was born: an online parapsychology test using Zener cards. That project was successful in that none of the participants recorded any significant outliers (otherwise it would have been in the news :-).

Shortly thereafter my parents told me that they were not going to support my study anymore if I was not going to study enough. Fortunately, it was possible to get a temporary job working as a programmer on the PLATO Pilot Project of the University of Amsterdam. This lasted until 1980.

Then I left the University to start working for the "Bureau voor Toegepaste Onderwijskunde", a private spinoff of the PLATO project at the university (with the Dutch name meaning "Bureau for applied educational science"). Here I continued to do development work on PLATO, until 1983 when PLATO was shut down in Europe.

TenCOREThe "Bureau" with its unspeakable Dutch name, changed its name to "Courseware Europe". And instead of using PLATO for development of CBT, the TenCORE system system was used.

Courseware Europe grew to become a part of the multinational company called the Courseware Group. During this period I was involved in the development of courseware, CBT authoring systems and a decision support system, apart from being the person to ask if there was a technical problem of any kind.

In this period I gave workshops in countries such as Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, India and of course the Netherlands.

xxLINKIn 1988 Wendy G.A. van Dijk and I decided to start our own company, I.K.S.X. Consultants. Apart from doing contract work for the makers of TenCORE, I also developed a number of tools for TenCORE users. Which allowed us doing well for a few years. Until the bottom fell out of the local CBT market due to Philips destroying the market with CD-I.

So in 1994 we set up xxLINK, the first Dutch commercial website provider ("devops") on the Internet. And Perl was the programming language used to produce interactive websites (with a dab of PHP, pre-generated by Perl scripts to minimise database acccesses), with TenCORE still being used to create static websites.

In December 1999 we sold xxLINK (then at 45 employees) to the French company Integra that was building a network of European content and hosting providers. Sadly the new owners decided in the summer of 2000 that website development wasn't their thing after all, and that our services were no longer needed.

A year later whatever was left of xxLINK folded. And Integra itself ceased to exist as a separate entity a year after that. Turned out focusing on co-location in a market that was overflowing with data-centers, was not a good idea after all. Who would have guessed?

In the early 2000's I started developing a lot of Perl modules on CPAN. You may still find them on BackPAN. Although times were hard, it was good to be able to give back to the Perl community that had enabled the growth of xxLINK. In those days I was also pretty active on PerlMonks, as many were.

Bookings.nlIn late 2003 times had gotten so hard that it was really necessary to look for some paid work. In December 2003 (now known as contracted me to do various Perl jobs on their system. From an initial period of a few months, this turned out to be a very fruitful venture for both us over many years.

If you want to know more about those crazy days, the book The Machine will give you a pretty good idea. And yes, I'm in it :-)

Open Source AgainBy December 2011 it became clear to me that I needed to move on. Working for a company with 25 people (as it was in late 2003) to 5000+: it was just not the same. And a burnout after working 60 hours a week for many years in a row, wasn't helping either. So in April 2012, I stopped at

After a year of mostly freewheeling, I got back into programming again. To work on the future of Perl which still in the minds of some, was called "Perl 6". I applied for a commit bit, and got one. And now have clocked more than 10000 commits in the various repositories.

The first version of "Perl 6" was released in December 2015. What followed were a number of years that on the one hand were great, because of all the great things that were being developed. In 2018 I decided to write a number of blog posts about the differences between the two "sister" languages for

But on the other hand, it became clear to me that the mere existence of "Perl 6" was enough to be shunned by a large part of the vocal Perl community. And it was time to move on again.

RakuAt the last European Perl Conference I proposed to change the name of "Perl 6". After a lot of discussion, it was decided that it was going to be called the Raku Programming Language.

The renaming process was extensive, and is still going on at some internals of Rakudo. And then Covid-19 happened. And then Russia invaded Ukraine. The latter being extra upsetting because several core developers have (in)direct roots in Ukraine.

Since the rename I've been involved in many aspects of Raku and its community. And plan to do this for some time to come!

My feelings about the Perl community are very mixed. On the hand, I will still call a number of individuals "friend". But the Perl community as a whole: not so much. I therefore stay away from anything Perl related as much as I can.

There was only a book I had been working on late 2019 / early 2020, reworking and updating and expanding the 2018 blog posts on Some events completely soured my will to be working on it, so I abandoned it.

ClosureLately I've seen quite a few people coming with Perl experience asking many questions in #raku-beginner and other social media. Questions that the book would have given answers to.

It felt like it was time to give the book, and myself, real closure. So I reworked what I had in the book to these blog posts.

And with this final blog post in the series, I can now say goodbye to Perl for real: thank you, it was a nice ride while it lasted. May it fare thee well.

Top comments (9)

bbkr profile image
Paweł bbkr Pabian

Your post brought me back so many memories.

Seeing Perl 6 for a first time in 2008 and immediately falling in love with it. It was Haskell implementation called Pugs and it was both adorable and unusable at the same time. Then switch to Parrot VM. Tons of IRC bughunts. My first module contribution in 2010. YAPCs. New Object Model atomic bomb thrown into fresh ecosystem. Switch to MoarVM. Another Great List Refactor bomb. TPCs. Painful splitting ways with Perl. And finally gaining traction under own Raku brand.

Things were changing but your presence and will to help and contribute were always constant part of Raku evolution.

citronbrick profile image

Wow ! I had no idea that Perl has a [family of programming languages]( or that one of them is being renamed to Raku. Had read somewhere that all programming languages eventually disappear, but Perl would remain. Need to learn it.

szabgab profile image
Gabor Szabo

We love you Liz!

ddn123456 profile image

An impressive and honourable career.
My sincere respect for your accomplishments and your vast support of the open source community.

obra profile image
Jesse Vincent


mbeijen profile image
Michiel W. Beijen

Thanks Liz! And I already read your accomplishments in The Machine as well ;-)

packy profile image
Packy Anderson

Thank you, Liz!

notbenh profile image
ben hengst

thank you Liz

peterdragon profile image
Peter Edwards

Great blog post. I recall at the Open University in 1985 there was still some mention of PLATO! And all these years later here we are. The best of luck to you.