The awk Programming Language

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History | Significant Language Features | Areas of Application | Sample Programs | Related Links | References


Awk was first written in 1977 by Alfred V. Aho, Peter J. Weinberger, and Brian W. Kernighan. The name awk is derived from the last initials of the three men. At the time of its creation, all three worked for Bell Labs and awk was released in Version 7 AT&T UNIX and has been a staple in UN*X distributions ever since. There have been only a handful of major modifications to the original awk code. These modifications were done in 1985, 1986, and 1989 when it was renamed to nawk. (New awk) There are many ports of awk to virtually every platform in existence. 

Significant Features

Awk has several key features which secured its position early on in its existence. First, it has similar control structures to common shell scripting languages making it simple to learn with any experience in shell scripting. Second, dynamically declared variable default to a null value allowing them to be immediately used with necessarily needing to be explicitly assigned a value. Third, the language easily extracts any element from a string making it ideal for simple data analysis or command scripting. 

Areas of Application

Awk was originally used throughout the UN*X world for a large variety of tasks. Since the advent of Perl, however, it has become relegated to use nearly exclusively in simple scripts and basic command line statements. 

Sample Programs

Related Links


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Last modified: 02:31 AM on 12/08/1997
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