Chapter 7. Subroutine References

So far, we’ve shown references to three main Perl data types: scalars, arrays, and hashes. We can also take a reference to a subroutine (sometimes called a coderef).

Why would we want to do that? Well, in the same way that taking a reference to an array lets us have the same code work on different arrays at different times, taking a reference to a subroutine allows the same code to call different subroutines at different times. Also, references permit complex data structures. A reference to a subroutine allows a subroutine to effectively become part of that complex data structure.

Put another way, a variable or a complex data structure is a repository of values throughout the program. A reference to a subroutine can be thought of as a repository of behavior in a program. The examples in this section show how this works.

Referencing a Named Subroutine

The Skipper and Gilligan are having a conversation:

sub skipper_greets {
  my $person = shift;
  print "Skipper: Hey there, $person!\n";

sub gilligan_greets {
  my $person = shift;
  if ($person eq "Skipper") {
    print "Gilligan: Sir, yes, sir, $person!\n";
  } else {
    print "Gilligan: Hi, $person!\n";


This results in:

Skipper: Hey there, Gilligan!
Gilligan: Sir, yes, sir, Skipper!

So far, nothing unusual has happened. Note, however, that Gilligan has two different behaviors, depending on whether he’s addressing the Skipper or someone else.

Now, have the Professor ...

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