The Python programming language lies behind an enormous variety of software applications today, many of which affect our daily lives in ways both large and small. First released by its creator Guido van Rossum in 1991, Python has undergone continual improvement and has become a powerful yet flexible and easy-to- learn “Swiss Army knife” for programmers. Computer system administrators use it to solve daily problems quickly and developers can use it to build massive enterprise-scale websites. It is used in machine learning, banking, scientific computing, education, video games, math, physics, engineering, and for fast software prototyping by thousands of entities, including Autodesk, Google,Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Alibaba, NASA, IBM, and hundreds of universities around the world. UC Berkeley and MIT are known to use it in their undergraduate programming courses.
In a 1999 report, Van Rossum highlighted the following as his goals for Python:
- It should be an easy and intuitive language, just as powerful as major competitors.
- It should be open source, so anyone can contribute to its development.
- Its code should be understandable as plain English.
- It should be suitable for everyday tasks, allowing for short development times.
Since he made Python open source, Van Rossum has accepted the title of Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL) from the Python user community, for which he helps mediate disputes emerging from the language’s ongoing development. Python is now more than a programming language: it is an advanced ecosystem, with dozens of sophisticated libraries and specialized commands tailored for dozens of diverse disciplines, from astrophysics to project management.
Since graduating in 1982 with a master’s degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Amsterdam, Van Rossum has spent his life as a programmer, first in the Netherlands, then in the United States at NIST and CNRI, Google, and, since January 2013, at Dropbox. In 2006 the ACM recognized him as a Distinguished Engineer.