An Introduction to Python

Python is a high-level (human-readable) programming language that is processed by the Python interpreter (console) to produce a result. Python includes an extensive standard library of tested code modules that can be easily incorporated into your own programs.

The Python language was developed by Guido van Rossum in the late eighties and the early nineties at the National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science in the Netherlands. Python is a derived from many other languages, including C, C++, the Unix shell and other programming languages. Today, Python is maintained by a core development team at the Institute, although Guido van Rossum still holds a vital role in directing its progress.

The basic philosophy of the Python language is readability, which makes it particularly well suited for beginners in computer programming, and it can be summarized by these principles:

  • Beautiful is better than ugly.
  • Explicit is better than implicit.
  • Simple is better than complex.
  • Complex is better than complicated.
  • Readability counts.

As Python is intended to be highly readable it uses English keywords frequently where other languages may use punctuation. Most significantly, it uses indentation to group together statements into code blocks whereas other languages may use keywords or punctuation for this purpose. For example, in the Pascal programming language blocks start with the keyword begin and end with the keyword end, and in the C programming language blocks are enclosed in curly brackets ({} brackets). Grouping blocks of statements by indentation are sometimes criticized by programmers familiar with languages that group by punctuation but the use of indentation in Python certainly produces code that has an uncluttered visual layout.

Some of Python’s key distinguishing features that make it an attractive choice of language for the beginners include:

  • Python is free – Python is an open source distributable piece of software.
  • Python is easy to learn – Python has a simple language syntax.
  • Python is easy to read – Python is uncluttered by punctuation.
  • Python is easy to maintain – Python is modular for simplicity.
  • Python provides an extensive standard library
    Python provides a large standard library for easy integration into your own programs.
  • Python is interactive – Python has a terminal for debugging and testing snippets of code.
  • Python is portable – Python runs on a wide variety of hardware platforms and has the same interface on all platforms.
  • Python is interpreted – There is no compilation required.
  • Python is high-level – Python has automatic memory management.
  • Python is extensible – Python allows the addition of low-level modules to the interpreter for customization.
  • Python is versatile – Python supports both procedure-oriented programming and object-orientated programming (OOP).
  • Python is flexible – Python can create console programs, windowed GUI (Graphical User Interface) applications, and CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts to process web data.

As the development of Python continues newer versions are released as with more software. Currently, the final 3.6 version is out. You can download Python 2.7 but as far as I know, development has now stopped completely on it, even though a lot of programmers still use it because they are used to the syntax.