The Origins of Python

Yesterday the creator of the Python language, Guido van Rossum, tweeted about The Origins of Python, an essay by his mentor, Lambert Meertens.

“On Sunday, June 21, 1970, in an office building on Great Portland Street in London, a teletype sprang to life. Under the heading “HAPPY FAMILIES,” the machine rattled out a sequence of English sentences, such as “THE DOG SITS ON THE BABY” and “UNCLE TED PLAYS WITH SISTER.” The “Happy Families” program that produced this output had been written that same weekend by someone with no prior programming experience, a participant in a workshop organized by the Computer Arts Society offering a course in “non-numerical programming.”

Almost fifty years later, on October 26, 2019, in Istanbul, the eyes of a young woman lit up as she managed to get her very first program to run. She was attending a workshop organized by Django Girls, an international non-profit organization aiming to empower women through free, one-day programming workshops.

The programming language used at the London workshop in 1970 was TELCOMP, a simple unstructured language similar to BASIC—not BASIC as it is now, but unstructured BASIC as it was then. The programming language taught at the Istanbul workshop in 2019 was Python, a programming language designed by Guido van Rossum that has become wildly popular, steadily gaining in popularity since an inconspicuous public release in 1991. As far apart as these events are, both in time and geography, an arc of history connects them.”

It is a magnificent article. If you’re passionate about Python, and programming languages in general, make sure to read it.1

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  1. In the same vein, another outstanding reading would be The Early History of F#. [return]