This 45-year-old Unix tool finally gets an update

A software platform first introduced in 1977, AWK has finally received a long-awaited update nearly half a century after its creation.

What makes the release more impressive is that it is the brainchild of 80-year-old Canadian computer scientist Brian Kernighan, who is part of the team behind the software acronym (AWK – Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger and Brian Kernighan).

POSIX compliance in terms of the operating system requires that it include AWK, a programming language for parsing text files. It first appeared in UNIX version 7 in 1979, which is considered the last version of UNIX created by Bell Labs before being released by AT&T. Other POSIX-certified operating systems include macOS, VxWorks, and z/OS.

AWK update

In a GitHub post (opens in a new tab), Kernighan writes about the update titled "Add BWK Email." He says:

"Finally, with some free time after the academic grind slowed down, I started playing with Unicode in awk again."

He writes that he now has it "mostly" working, "thanks to a combination of using utf-8 internally for functions like length() and converting to utf-32 in regular expressions."

The update contains a remap bug, leading Kernighan to suspect there could be more. A "good amount" of testing has already been done, but he writes that "more testing is clearly needed."

Comments in the thread highlight the importance of the update and include phrases like "wow" and "respect."

The Register - opens in a new tab - reports that the code was actually changed in early 2022, but it was only picked up by a broader audience thanks to a recently published interview with Kernighan.

Share This