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Sorting Techniques

Sorting is a commonly needed operation in all kinds of programs. Luckily, for us perl programmers, perl provides a very simple yet extremely powerful mechanism to accomplish any sort you might think of. This article is about teaching the novice programmer how to sort lists of things, while showing to the more experienced folks certain techniques and ideas that could be new to them if they are migrating from a different language. Moving to the meat of the matter staight away, we'll start from talking about comparison. Obviously, in order to put a list of things in order, you'll have to first define that order. Order is defined by how things compare to each other. If I give you two items from the list, can you tell me which one is bigger / better / nicer / sexier ... [insert you favourite adjective here] than the other? Or tell me thet they are both of equal order? Well, that's just about it! If you give me a list of items and promise me that you can answer this question for any pair of them, I can make a sorted list of them. All I have to do is take all possible pairs and ask you "how do these two compare?" and arrange them accordingly to finally come up with a sorted list. Actually there are even smarter ways to do it, minimising the amount of comparisons needed, but that is not an issue here, as we will see soon that perl performs that task for us, and we trust perl that it uses the least expensive method.