More than 8.2 million developers use Python! But where did this language come from? Why is it so popular? Let’s take a dive into Python’s fascinating 29-year history.
First of all, why the name Python?
There is a fun fact behind choosing the name Python. Guido van Rossum, the creator of the language, was reading the script of a popular BBC comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, which was on-air in the late 1970s. Van Rossum wanted to select a name that was and a little bit mysterious. So, he decided to select naming Python after the comedy series, which was creative, fun, and unpredictable.
Formation of Python
The history of Python goes back to December 1989, to Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), in Amsterdam. CWI is a research institute for math and computer science. A Dutch programmer named Guido van Rossum was looking for a hobby programming project to keep him busy over the Christmas break. He decided to create an interpreter for a new scripting language that had been on his mind for a while. Its base is on ABC, which is a general-purpose programming language invented again at CWI. It’s a high-language similar to BASIC or Pascal and it was never meant for high-performance work or anything like that. Its purpose was for teaching programming and prototyping. It was high level, and the code read like plain English, the perfect solution for someone teaching new programmers how logic and data works.
However, what problem was Python solving exactly? At the time, Guido developed Python for the Amoeba distributed computing system. If you wanted to develop software for Amoeba, you would either have to use C or the Unix shell. Writing code in C on this platform was complex and had plenty of restrictions. Guido wanted to sit down and build an application without worrying about hardware, memory management, or other complexities. He’s quoted as saying, “Why don’t I create my own language, stealing my ideas from ABC but reducing the project size from something that took 3 years to complete to something I can do on my own as a skunkworks project in 3 months. And thus, Python was born.”
Brief introduction of the Python Versions
Of course, the history of Python – like other languages, has gone through several versions. Python 0.9.0 was first released in 1991. In addition to exception handling, Python included classes, lists, and strings. More importantly, it included lambda, map, filter, and reduce, which aligned it heavily concerning functional programming.
In 2000, Python 2.0 was released. This version was more of an open-source project from members of the National Research Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science. This version of Python included list comprehensions, a full garbage collector, and it also supported Unicode.
Python 3.0 was the next version and was released in December of 2008 (the latest version of Python is 3.6.4). Although Python 2 and 3 are similar there are subtle differences. Perhaps most noticeably – the way the print statement works. As in Python 3.0, the print statement has been replaced with a print () function.
From its humble beginnings as a project over Christmas break to one of the most popular languages in the world is quite a journey. Many of the core principles behind Python are still present in the language and define its path for the future. While Python is enjoying increased popularity and has taken over the data science field by storm, of course, there are challenges ahead. For instance, mobile devices are far more common than PCs these days, and Python doesn’t really have much representation there. Moreover, multi-core processors are also incredibly common, and Python needs to adapt to that and spread work across cores better.
Nevertheless, Python is seeing a much more diverse user base as it becomes sort of a glue language to other technologies. Programmers are pushing the boundaries of it every day, but the future looks pretty bright!