Author – Saranya Krishnan M

 

import fun

Python – A Hobby Project

The 1998 Christmas vacation, Guido van Rossum an employee of Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), Netherland, was looking for a ‘hobby’ programming project that would keep him occupied during the week around Christmas. His office was closed, and all he had at home was a computer. So, he decided to write an interpreter for the new scripting language that he had been thinking about lately: a descendant of ABC. Wait… not many of you might have heard about ABC. ABC is a general-purpose programming language and programming environment, which was developed at the CWI. At that time, he was working in a project called Amoeba, a distributed operating system, at the CWI. ABC Programming Language had the interfacing with the Amoeba Operating System and had the feature of exception handling. He had already helped to develop ABC earlier in his career and he liked most of its features.

After that what he did was… He created a simple virtual machine, a simple parser, and a simple runtime. He made his own version of the various ABC parts he liked. He created a syntax, used indentation instead of curly braces or begin-end blocks, and developed some data types: a dictionary (something like a hash table, a list (or an array), strings and numbers. So, he designed a simple scripting language that possessed some of ABC’s better properties but without its problems. He was searching for a working title for the project. The name was inspired from BBC’s TV Show — ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, as he was a big fan of the show. He also wanted a small quirky and slightly mysterious name for his invention and hence he named it PYTHON!

When the language was finally released in 1991, it used a lot fewer codes to express the concepts, when we compare it with other languages. Even after 29 years, Python the most popular coding language in the world still has not lost its unknown charm.

The Zen of Python

The story does not end here… There is something more fascinating. For the first time in the history of a programming languages someone has written a poem pointing out its philosophies. Tim Peters, one of the major contributors to the Python has written a poem for Python. Curious to read the poem? Type “import this” in the Python IDLE and it will manifest itself. I am not mentioning the whole poem here because discovering the Zen of Python on your own is something really interesting.

Python is a beautifully designed high-level programming language, and there are many easter eggs hidden inside it! These are just a few of them. There are more tricky snippets to discover!

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Saranya Krishnan M

Author
Sree Chitra Thirunal College of Engineering

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