"Minimal Perl for the Impatient"

Yet Another Perl Conference

August 2-4, 2001
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Tim Maher
Head Software Instructor 

About This Document

This document describes a half-day tutorial that was presented at YAPC::Europe (Yet Another Perl Conference, European edition) in Amsterdam, Holland during August, 2001.  Those in attendance were provided with detailed lecture notes and samples of Perl programs to help them follow the lectures.  All interested parties are invited to download the latest version of this tutorial from the Consultix web site.

Consultix was happy to help fund this event through its sponsorship, and to present this tutorial session for the benefit of the good people who organized and attended YAPC, who have become such a vital force in Perl culture.

Our software training curriculum includes about a dozen hands-on courses on Perl Programming topics, including a full-day hands-on version of this tutorial.   We present these courses in periodic public offerings in Seattle WA USA, and in on-site courses worldwide, and we're eager to help interested companies develop and implement Perl training programs for their employees and customers.  For more information on our services, visit our web site or contact us.

Tutorial Description

Target Audience

Anyone who doesn't already know Perl, needs to do simple data processing, and has a logical mindset can benefit from attending.

This tutorial is particularly well suited to individuals of the following types:


Prior experience with programming is helpful, but anyone with a logical mindset can benefit from attending.

Course Philosophy

Perl is a wonderful language, that offers programmers a rich feature set, huge stylistic and syntactic liberties, and many ways to accomplish the same thing. But for the impatient beginner, these characteristics can translate into "too many complications, too much uncertainty, and too many choices." Although Perl's motto is

"There's More Than One Way to Do It",

this tutorial will teach students only one way --

"The Easiest Way to Do it"

What Attendees Will Learn

Students will learn a carefully selected minimal subset of Perl that gives immediate access to some of its powerful capabilities, and serves as a solid foundation for additional learning.

The tutorial's approach is based on the "Pattern/Action" model of programming, as featured in the influential AWK language .  By employing this  model, casual programmers can achieve a great deal of data-processing power with only a  small investment in  learning.

Upon completion of the tutorial, students will have the necessary skills to convert files, validate data, generate simple reports, and perform numerical calculations in Perl.

Avoiding "Tutorial Stupor"

Students may sometimes react to information overload by reverting to "scribe mode" -- doing nothing more than taking copious notes for possible later assimilation. To help keep their minds fully engaged and to promote active learning, various class exercises, quizzes, and problem-solving assignments will be interspersed throughout the presentation.


Dr. Tim Maher

Short Version

During the last two decades, Dr. Tim Maher has taught programming to thousands of high-tech professionals. As a Professor of Computer Science, and later as a Software Instructor for AT&T, Sun, DEC, HP, and CONSULTIX, Dr. Maher has consistently earned acclaim for his highly effective and entertaining style of course development and presentation.

Long Version

Teaching Background: "Doceo Ergo Sum!"

For ten years, I worked periodically as a contract trainer for Sun Microsystems, Digital Equipment Corp., Hewlett Packard, and other smaller companies. I've seen all the wrong ways to design training materials (courtesy of these big outfits), and have successfully competed with them by doing a better job.

For the last fifteen years, I've been teaching courses on UNIX and its associated languages through my own company, CONSULTIX, to the Fortune 500, US government agencies, and various international concerns.

My current job functions are course development and stand-up, hands-on, software training offered worldwide, from my corporate base in Seattle. I teach for approx. 25 weeks per year.

During eight years as a contract "UNIX and Programming Languages" trainer for Sun Microsystems, I received recognition as "Instructor of the Quarter."

During my two years as a CS Professor at the Univ. of Utah, my student evaluations for "quality of teaching" consistently placed me in the top 5% of the faculty.

The courses I've developed and taught through my own company have garnered much praise from the thousands of students who've taken them over the past 15 years; see




Academic and Technical Background

I have a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, where I worked in a field closely related to BioEngineering, that at the time was classified as "Experimental Psychology." I got the UNIX bug there in 1976 as a graduate student in a Computer Graphics class.

I was an Asst. Professor of CS at the University of Utah for two years, where I used digital signal processing technology to conduct original experiments on the psychophysics of digital music.

I left academia to join AT&T in the early 80s as a founding member of their fledgling UNIX training organization. While there, I wrote AT&T's first course on UNIX Security, among others, and taught C, AWK, Shell, UNIX System Administration, Database Programming, and other related courses to literally thousands of Bell Labs scientists and AT&T customers.

I spent two years at U.C. Berkeley as a Senior Systems Analyst reporting to the Vice Provost, where I wrote custom software for what was then the world's largest network of Sun workstations.

I have published seven papers in refereed professional journals and books, and articles in several high-tech publications (e.g., UNIX/World, Dr. Dobb's Journal, and Websmith).

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© Tim Maher, 2001