A Brief History Of Python

The first version of Python appeared in 1991 after having been conceived in 1989, after which the implementation started. So the language has been around for almost 30 years and now is more than ever alive and kicking.

The language was developed by Guido van Rossem at CWI (Centrum Wiskunde & Informatie, the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands) in Amsterdam. You can see and hear him talk in this video.

Python code tends to be very readable. One of the most striking features is that whitespace is meaningful in this language. No curly brackets, like Java or C#, but rather indentations group statements together in a group that is executed conditionally or in a loop. Python is an interpreted language.

The language's core philosophy was summarized by Tim Peters in the document The Zen of Python, using great and bold statements such as: 

  • Beautiful is better than ugly.
  • Explicit is better than implicit.
  • Simple is better than complex.
  • Complex is better than complicated.
  • Readability counts.

Once you have set up your Python development environment, you can read all aphorisms, simply by executing this Easter egg code that was embedded into Python:

The Essence of Python

import this

Which will output

The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!


Currently, the latest stable version of Python is 3.8.5 (as of September 2020). This version number shows that the language continued to develop over the years (although sometimes breaking compatibility, necessary to offset earlier design choices). Implementations are available for most operating systems.

Apart from all above, what makes Python a popular language (again)?

The answer lies in the rise of big data and machine learning - and a very active community that develops very powerful libraries. We will be demonstrating some of these in later posts.

The popularity of the language becomes manifest when you look at job platforms.

Just for fun, I checked the number of job opportunities for Python developers and Java developers on a certain marketplace (snapshot Dec 14th, 2020):

  • Java: 392 jobs
  • Python: 455 jobs

So, if you are planning to invest in a successful programming career, take a good look at Python! 

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