Python has grown from humble beginnings into one of the most popular programming languages on the planet. It can be the language of choice for individuals looking to write a quick script, to some of the largest companies on the planet, to everything in between.
Python is a high-level programming language for general-purpose programming. It's an open source programming language that is known for its simple, and easy to learn, syntax. It's a great language for first time programmers.
Python is an interpreted language, so it doesn't need to be compiled. This helps speed up development, as no extra compile step is required.
Python supports modules and packages, which encourages program modularity and code reuse. The Python interpreter and the extensive standard library are available across all major platforms in source or binary form. These can be downloaded for free and they can also be freely distributed.
Python can be used on small projects and large projects alike. You could use Python to write a quick one-off automation script, or you could use it to create a major application.
History of Python
Python was initially created in December 1989 by Dutch programmer, Guido van Rossum as a hobby programming project over the Christmas week. He was an employee for Stichting Mathematisch Centrum (CWI) at the time, and that's where Python was used initially. He named Python after the British sketch comedy series, Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Python — the language — was initially released internally at CWI in 1990. Version 0.9.0 was then released to the Usenet alt.sources on February 20, 1991. Since then, Python has gone through many releases, and it's now one of the most widely used programming languages in the world.
Since 2001, Python has been owned by the Python Software Foundation (PSF), however some of the early releases are owned by the companies that Guido worked for at the time. The initial releases are owned by CWI, and many subsequent releases until 2001 are owned by Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) in Reston, Virginia. Guido also worked for a company called BeOpen.com where Python 2.0 was released in 2000.
With the exception of various releases between 2000 and 2001, all Python releases are General Public License (GPL) compatible.
Python is developed under an OSI-approved open source license, making it freely usable and distributable (including for commercial use). Python's license is administered by the Python Software Foundation. The mission of the Python Software Foundation is to promote, protect, and advance the Python programming language, and to support and facilitate the growth of a diverse and international community of Python programmers.
Who Uses Python?
Python has become such a popular language that it can be found anywhere and everywhere. Some notable organizations and projects reportedly using Python include Google, Dropbox, Mozilla, IBM, Facebook, Yahoo, NASA, European Space Agency, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and many more.
Even when Python isn't used as the main language for a project or product, it is often used to develop auxillary applications such as automated test scripts, system monitoring, logging tools, and various other utilities.
Some of the benefits of using Python include:
- Easy to learn — Python's syntax is simple and includes English words that make it easy to read and understand. Beginners can learn a lot just by looking at existing code.
- Fast development cycle — developers can write Python apps very quickly. This is ideal for teams needing to do a lot of prototyping before settling on a final design.
- Extensive standard library — this standard library is constantly evolving with modules for regular expression matching, standard mathematical functions, threads, operating systems interfaces, network programming, email handling, HTML parsing, and more.
- Extensive list of third party modules — most of these are open source, and include web frameworks, DB interfaces, GUI toolkits, and more.
- Scales well — basic Python applications can be scaled up to complex applications quite easily.
- Relatively concise — a lot can be achieved with a small amount of code.
- Versatile — Python can be used in almost any type of application.
- Active community — Python has a large community of fellow developers writing software modules and providing help to newbies and other developers.