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Regular expressions were originally used to describe "regular sets," which were patterns under study by neurophysiologists.
Credit for the first regular expressions is given to the mathematician Stephen Kleene.
In the last five decades, regular expressions have slowly made their way from mathematic obscurity to a staple feature of many tools and software packages.
While regular expressions were supported by many UNIX tools for decades, it was only in the last decade or so that they have found their way into most Windows developers' toolkits.
Of course, matching exact strings to themselves is a trivial implementation of regular expressions, and doesn't begin to reveal their power.
What if instead of foo you wanted to find all words starting with the letter f, or all three letter words?
NET Regular Expression API Summary: Regular expressions are an extremely useful tool for working with text.