This variable stores the index of the first element in an array, and of the first character in a substring. The default is 0, but you could theoretically set it to 1 to make Perl behave more like awk (or Fortran) when subscripting and when evaluating the index() and substr() functions.
As of release 5 of Perl, assignment to
$[ is treated as a compiler directive, and cannot influence the behavior of any other file. (That's why you can only assign compile-time constants to it.) Its use is highly discouraged.
Prior to Perl 5.10, assignment to
$[ could be seen from outer lexical scopes in the same file, unlike other compile-time directives (such as strict). Using local() on it would bind its value strictly to a lexical block. Now it is always lexically scoped.
Mnemonic: [ begins subscripts.
Deprecated in Perl 5.12.