Good article -- I've never done the packet trace, but the difference doesn't surprise me. It's not usually necessary to do everything in memory in order to calculate Content-Length. That's only needed for browsers that don't understand chunked encoding. Chunked encoding also allows headers to be listed at the end -- very similar to PostScript's "at end" headers.
mod_perl can transparently generate chunked encoding on recent versions of Apache. Doing chunked encoding from plain CGI would be more difficult, but the protocol is fairly simple.
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