Practice Python

Beginner Python exercises

11 March 2017

Guido van Rossum on Talk Python to Me

This post is written by Michele Pratusevich. I occasionally listen to a podcast called Talk Python to Me on my commute. Last week I listened to the 100th episode, where Guido van Rossum, the creator of the Python language, talks about how he got into programming and his ideas about the future of Python.

For the 100th episode of the Talk Python to Me postcast, host Michael Kennedy talked to Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python. Guido is known in the Python community as the “benevolent dictator for life” (BDFL). This means his job in the Python community is much like a CEO - have a vision for the language, develop new ideas, and evangelize. He was the original creator of Python, but now there are a group of core developers of whom Guido is just one. However, his perspective and ideas are a guiding force in the Python community. One thing I love about Guido’s ideas is his firmness in making Python open source. Because Python is an open-source language, anyone can look at the Github repository and look at the source code of Python!

On the podcast, Michael, the host, asked Guido how he got into programming. Guido started as an electronics tinkerer and moved to punch-card programming, all the way to designing programming languages. I really enjoyed Guido’s descriptions of what programming was like in the old days. In fact, before he started working on Python, he worked on a language called ABC. As he says many times on the podcast, Guido did not design ABC, but he worked on the implementation. It did influence some of the early design decisions in the Python language. I especially enjoyed the description of distributing a new language to academic groups that wanted to use ABC - he carried it on storage devices in his luggage! This was before the internet, so this was the only way to distribute software! My, how times have changed, and how lucky we are…

The discussion then shifted to how Python evolves. Turns out, Guido doesn’t have grand visions for the language, and the language evolves based on the needs of the community. There was a discussion of how things got added to the standard library (i.e. all the packages you can do import FOO without needing to install a new package), and what makes a good core standard library package. The core developers of Python make this possible, and of course the conversation shifted to diversity and inclusion. The number of female or people of color developers is very small, and Guido is making efforts to improve the situation. His attitude is positive towards inclusion, and he believes in diversity to make progress. As you can see from the Python Diversity home page, the Python Software Foundation (PSF) has a diversity mission:

One of the goals of the Practice Python blog is to make Python accessible to everyone, and I get some of my inspiration from Guido van Rossum.

You can read more about Guido on his wikipedia page, or better yet, from his personal home page. I recommend listening to the podcast yourself. It was a great listen!. Thanks Michael and Talk Python to Me.

Happy Coding!

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