Perl is an acronym, short for Practical Extraction and Report Language. It dates back to the 1980's. It was originally written by Larry Wall while he was working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs. Perl started life as a 'glue' language, for the use of Larry and his office-mates, allowing one to 'stick' different tools together by converting between their various data formats. It pulled together the best features of several languages: the powerful regular expressions from sed (the UNIX stream editor), the pattern-scanning language AWK, and a few other languages and utilities. The syntax was further made up out of C, Pascal, Basic, UNIX shell languages, English and maybe a few other things along the way.
Perl has the power and flexibility of a high-level programming language such as C and convenience of scripting. It provides extreme performance and ease of coding. It is meant for geeks (not for the commons). It does allow the usual readable code. But the real power of Perl lies in the concept of default variables and parameters, that allows us to crunch huge functionality into a single line of code.
Perl has a huge opensource community and literature. The ones I love are:
Please do let me know if you know of any other resources.