What has a British comedy group from the 1960s/70s got to do with one of the most used programming languages? Although it may appear that there are few elements in common, there are several.
Guido van Rossum created the Python programming language and is also a fan of Monty Python. In 1989, he was inspired by the television program Monty Python’s Flying Circus to name his project.
Another thing in common is that both are very popular and versatile projects. Where does the popularity of this language lie and what is the philosophy behind the project?
Why Python is so popular
Python is a multiplatform programming language that allows the development of applications for any operating system, and it’s based on simplicity. This lies in the fact that it is a language that uses a unique syntax that makes the code easier to read, even if the coder has little technical knowledge.
That is the major reason Phyton is now one of the world’s most used open-source languages. According to the TIOBE Index, it is currently the most popular programming language, ahead of C, Java, and C++.
Throughout its evolution, the language acquired some characteristics that set it apart from the rest:
• It is easier to read and understand.
• It is versatile.
• It is easy to use for beginners, making it extremely popular with inexperienced programmers.
• It is open source.
• The community supports other struggling developers.
• Uses portable code, so you can use the same code on different platforms like Windows, macOS, Unix, or Linux.
To mention some of its applications, it allowed the development of the Netflix, Spotify, and Instagram recommendation algorithms; in addition to facilitating the processing and analysis of Big Data, data mining, and programming in the development of AI.
The project started as a hobby while Guido was working on the Amoeba operating system and dealing with specific issues arising from the features of the first language he learned, ALGOL 60. According to Guido van Rossum: “At that time, I just wanted to create a ‘glue language’ and paste the written C language applet together to form a new tool.” (A glue language is used to link different software components that were not created to interact with each other.)
However, the first development of Python was slow, and only towards the end of the 1990s, many programmers like him began to use it as a “glue language” for scientific calculations, originally written in Fortran or C++.
New versions and gradual improvements
By 1991 the first public version of the language, Python 0.90, was released, and in 1995 the 1.0. That same year, Guido van Rossum became the first programmer to obtain the title of BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life), which is awarded to important personalities linked to open-source programming. This award allowed him to make resolutions on the general guidelines of the Python project until 2018 when he announced his retirement from the decisional processes.
In the year 2000, version 2.0 of Python was released. This updated version introduced an innovative system in which programmers could make cyclic references and a new data type (Unicode strings). Due to a legal conflict during the distribution of version 2.0, the Python Software Foundation License was created, contributing to the advancement of the General Public License. During this time, the community contributed to the creation of various open-source software projects such as NumPy, SciPy, and Matplotlib, among others.
In 2001, Guido van Rossum was awarded the Free Software Award for his work in creating and developing Python.
Version 3.0 was released in 2018, having as its main novelties the separation between Unicode strings and binary data, the print () function, and changes in syntax, data types, and comparators.
In June 2022, the latest version of Python, 3.11 Beta, was released, being developed by a Microsoft team formed by van Rossum, Eric Snow, and Mark Shannon. The main goal of this update appears to focus on improving efficiency over previous versions. According to the tests carried out, version 3.11 was achieved between 10% and 60% faster than Python 3.10. This would allow Python to overcome one of its biggest drawbacks: slow processing.
Is Python the language of the future?
To sum up, Python is still one of the most widely used programming languages and will continue to be so in the future.
It is used by small businesses for website creation and large companies for data science, machine learning, and process automation. Because of its versatility, this language is in high demand in the market and is one of the most widely used in the world.
Following user trends, Python is likely to continue to be chosen by the majority of programmers. Some of the reasons these predictions hold up have to do with where market demands are heading. For example:
- Resources for AI development and projects.
- Applications for data analysis and machine learning.
- Web development.
- Videogames development.
- Autonomous vehicles.
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