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Is Python worth learning? A journey back to the beginning

Once upon a time in the Netherlands, a programmer had an idea that would give rise to a new programming language. Who was this person, why did they create a new language and why did they do it the way they did? And is Python worth learning? Let’s journey back to the beginning!

How did it all start?

Near the end of 1989 Guido van Rossum must have been really bored with the Christmas atmosphere because instead of making the most of his spare time, he began searching for something to keep him occupied before his office would open following Christmas break. For some time now he had been toying with the idea of creating a new programming language to replace ABC. A better version of that language.

In an interview conducted by Bill Venners van Rossum recalls it as follows: I remembered all my experience and some of my frustration with ABC. I decided to try to design a simple scripting language that possessed some of ABC’s better properties, but without its problems. So I started typing. I created a simple virtual machine, a simple parser, and a simple runtime. I made my own version of the various ABC parts that I liked. () a basic syntax, used indentation for statement grouping instead of curly braces or begin-end blocks, and developed a small number of powerful data types: a hash table (or dictionary, as we call it), a list, strings, and numbers.

Principles and philosophy

The author started off with a couple of principles that the new language would follow. It would not force a single programming style on the user, it would provide maximum visibility of the source code and be much easier to expand than ABC. The aptly titled The Zen of Python document contains such aphorisms as:

  • Beautiful is better than ugly
  • Explicit is better than implicit
  • Simple is better than complex
  • Complex is better than complicated
  • Special cases aren’t special enough to break the rules
  • Now is better than never

By sticking to these rules, van Rossum was able to create something that would resonate with the entire industry and change the world of programming. This is how Python was born.

What happened next?

In the following years Python was developed at the CWI – the research institute for mathematics and computer science in Amsterdam (up to version 1.2), then at the CNRI – Corporation for National Research Initiatives (up to version 1.6) and (only version 2.0), to finally move to Digital Creations (now Zope Corporation). The latest version of the language was published on June 27, 2018.

A complete list of versions of the programming language can be found on the Python Software Foundation website.

Software Engineers - development team

The name and some other interesting facts

Many of you will be aware, although even more will not, that apart from the logotype, Python has very little to do with the snake. When deciding on the name for his creation, van Rossum wanted something that would be short, catchy, original and mysterious. As a fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, he found it a nice opportunity to pay homage to his favourite series.

What other interesting facts are related to Python?

  • Python is the second most profitable language in the US in terms of programmer salary. In Poland, it places third, but that trend is rising.
  • According to research by StackOverflow, Python is gaining popularity among programmers, with 62.7% of interviewees calling it their favourite language.
  • The same study also suggest a rise in the number of users – in 2017 this was 7% higher than in the previous year.
  • Python is used by such companies, organizations and brands as Instagram, Dropbox, NASA, Spotify, YouTube, Yahoo, Nokia and IBM.
  • Van Rossum stepped back from his position as the leader of the Python community in July 2018.

Is Python worth learning?

We have already briefly covered Python’s past. But what about the future? Considering the efficiency, capabilities and ease of learning, we can assume that the language will be a success. Reports on programming languages already predict that Python’s popularity will rise year by year, among other reasons because of its usefulness in the rapidly growing branches of technology: machine learning and blockchain. All this leads us to think that Python will have a fantastic future! To us, the answer to the question of “is Python worth learning” is obvious.

cto - Chris Gibas

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