A Brief History of Python

As a simple programming language, Python is designed to be easy to use. This is among the reasons Python is liked by many programmers. In fact, it’s now the second most used programming language after JavaScript.

How Python Started Its Life

The mastermind behind Python’s creation is none other than Guido van Rossum. The man’s journey to success began in 1989 when he was working for Amoeba, a microkernel-based operating system.

He found that C wasn’t the right thing for him due to its time consuming nature. Wanting to work more efficiently, Guido sought to develop a language that is both easier and more powerful.

His idea revolved around bridging the gap between C and a shell script. The new language would be interpreted but a lot easier to read and program than the shell. As you guessed, that's what came to be known as Python.

It’s Not a Snake-Inspired Programming Language

If you're new to Python, you might simply think that the language is named after the snake family. But no, you’re wrong. Guido actually drew inspiration for the name from the classic comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus from the 1970s.

The early stages of Python’s development were completed at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), a national research institute for mathematics and computer science in Amsterdam where Guido was working. The language was later released open-source.

Python’s Debut

Guido released the source code of Python interpreter in February 1991. It was published to a Usenet newsgroup called alt.sources. Unlike today where such a publication is commonplace on GitHub, back then language developers weren’t sure where their work would lead them to.

There were also proprietary languages at the time, but they struggled to gain popularity due to their exclusive status. Guido's decision to open source Python was definitely the right one, as it turned out to be one of the factors that supported the language's success.

Python 1.0

Python 1.0 was rolled out in January 1994, followed by the creation of a separate Usenet group for it. This release inspired the development of similar languages like Ruby and Perl, which indicated that the demand for such a dynamic language was high.

Still in 1994, Guido went to the US to attend the invitation of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), which was interested in collaborating with him on some projects that would implement Python.

The collaboration made the man and Python even better known than before, eventually earning Guido an important position in a non-profit research lab called CNRI. Another teamwork with a group of Python enthusiasts in this research lab gave birth to Python versions 1.3 to 1.6.

Python 2.0

Python 2.0 came out in October 2000 with list comprehensions, a popular feature that was used in purely-functional programming languages like Haskell. The new version was also capable of handling Unicode and performing garbage collection. These updates further improved the quality of Python as a reliable and user-friendly programming language.

Python 3.0

The development of Python quickly continued after the rollout of the version 2.0. The next-gen Python was designed to be even more straightforward by removing unneeded functions and constructs that had been added to the language since the beginning of its creation.

That resulted in a huge improvement in Python 3.0 which was released in December 2008. Although at the same time, it brought serious compatibility issues. The radical upgrade made program migration difficult to do as many third-party libraries weren’t ready for the drastic change. Nevertheless, adjustments were still being made albeit taking years to complete, until the Python 2.0 era officially ended in 2020.

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