A Clever Boy And Benevolent Dictator For Life

Python: An all-purpose computer programming language. 

Below are extracts from the article titled, “Python has brought computer programming to a vast new audience” published in The Economist last summer:

  • Perhaps unnerved by a future filled with automated jobs, 90% of American parents want their children to study computer science.
  • For professions that have long relied on trawling through spreadsheets, Python is especially valuable. Citigroup, an American bank, has introduced a crash course in Python for its trainee analysts.
  • Some of the most alluring packages that Pythonistas can find in the Cheese Shop harness artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Marketers, for instance, can use the language to build statistical models that measure the effectiveness of campaigns.
  • College lecturers can check whether they are distributing grades properly.
  • Even journalists on The Economist, scraping the web for data, generally use programs written in Python to do so.

​IN DECEMBER 1989 Guido van Rossum, a Dutch computer scientist, set himself a Christmas project. Irked by shortcomings in other programming languages, he wanted to build his own. His principles were simple. First, it should be easy to read. Rather than sprawling over line-endings and being broken up by a tangle of curly braces, each chunk would be surrounded with indented white space. Second, it should let users create their own packages of special-purpose coding modules, which could then be made available to others to form the basis of new programs. Third, he wanted a “short, unique and slightly mysterious” name. He therefore called it after Monty Python, a British comedy group. The package repository became known as the Cheese Shop.

Nearly 30 years after his Christmas invention, Mr Van Rossum resembles a technological version of the Monty Python character who accidentally became the Messiah in the film “Life of Brian”. “I certainly didn’t set out to create a language that was intended for mass consumption,” he explains. But in the past 12 months Google users in America have searched for Python more often than for Kim Kardashian, a reality-TV star. The rate of queries has trebled since 2010, while inquiries after other programming languages have been flat or declining (see chart).

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