Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The History of Python - Introduction

Python is 19 years old now. I started the design and implementation of the language on a cold Christmas break in Amsterdam, in late December 1989. It started out as a typical hobby project. Little did I know where it would all lead.

With Python's coming of age, I am going to look back on the history of the language, from the conception as a personal tool, through the the early years of community building, (If Guido was hit by a bus?), all the way through the release of Python 3000, almost 19 years later. It's been quite an adventure, for myself as well as for the users of the language.

This won't be an ordinary blog post -- it'll be an open-ended series. I may invite guest writers. I'll be touching upon many aspects of the language's history and evolution, both technical and social.

I'll start with the gradual publication of material I wrote a few years ago, when I was invited to contribute an article on Python to HOPL-III, the third installment of ACM's prestigious History of Programming Languages conference, held roughly every ten years. Unfortunately, the demands of the rather academically inclined reviewers were too much for my poor hacker's brain. Once I realized that with every round of review the amount of writing left to do seemed to increase rather than decrease, I withdrew my draft. Bless those who persevered, but I don't believe that the resulting collection of papers gives a representative overview of the developments in programming languages of the past decade.

The next destination of the draft was a book on Python to be published by Addison-Wesley. Again, the mountain of raw material that I had collected was too large and at the same time too incomplete to serve as a major section of the book, despite the editing help I received from David Beazley, a much better writer than I am.

As they tell prospective Ph.D. students, the best way to eat an elephant is one meal at a time. So today I am publishing the first bit of the elephant, perhaps still somewhat uncooked, but at least it's out there. Hopefully others who were there at the time can help clear up the inevitable omissions and mistakes. I have many more chapters, each still requiring some editing, and I expect this to be a long-running series. Therefore I am starting a separate blog title for this, unimaginatively called The History of Python. Follow the link and enjoy!

6 comments:

Nick said...

Never mind, I finally found the full feed at the bottom of the main page (that's what I get for only look at specific articles...)

Nick said...

Although my original comment with the question about the location of the full feed appears not to have turned up, so that comment about finally finding doesn't really make a lot of sense...

Anyway, the history blog sounds interesting - I look forward to reading it :)

jasbaker said...

Awesome! I look forward to reading up on this!

RadicalEd said...

Thank you BDFL, I really like to study in every moment Python, but I'm afraid with Python 3.0

stalkerg said...

Nice! :)
Python 3.0 realy good but I like simple "print" without "()" :).

Realy thank you BDFL.

Juanjo Conti said...

For spanish readers. I am translating The History of Python articles to spanish. You can find them at La historia de Python.