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Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers

54 replies on 4 pages. Most recent reply: Jan 4, 2008 12:50 AM by Sharmila Gopirajan Sivakumar

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Guido van van Rossum

Posts: 359
Nickname: guido
Registered: Apr, 2003

Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers (View in Weblogs)
Posted: May 22, 2006 11:16 PM
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Summary
How long have you used Python? 10 years or longer? Please tell us how you first heard of the language, how you first used it, and how you helped develop it (if you did). More recent reminiscences are welcome too!
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I'm writing a paper on Python for the ACM History Of Programming Languages conference (HOPL-III). This is getting me in a bit of a nostalgic mood. Python is 16 years old now -- it can't vote yet, but it can drive a car! (At least in the US :-)

The paper will be filled with my memories of the early days, but a reviewer reminded me that the memories of other early developers might also be very useful material for the paper! Even if I don't use your story for the paper, others might enjoy reading it, so this is a call for all old-timers to write up their oldest Python memories.

It doesn't have to be a complete well-written story: just a few pointers or names and events (and dates, if you remember them!) could be very useful, too.

If you don't feel comfortable following up here, feel free to send me a personal email. I will only use material for the paper with explicit permission.


Anthony Baxter

Posts: 2
Nickname: anthonyb
Registered: Jan, 2005

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 12:46 AM
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I think the first time I grabbed Python was to run a texi2html program that Guido had written. This was well back in the 0.9 days - as I recall, it was just before Guido's weekend where he ran a web spider that walked the _entire_ world wide web as it existed at the time.

There's still a few names around from back then - Tim Peters being the most obvious one.

Martin v. Löwis

Posts: 3
Nickname: loewis
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 2:18 AM
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I started using Python in 1995, as it was one of the scripting languages that ILU (http://www2.parc.com/istl/projects/ILU/ilu.html) supported. I needed it to script a CORBA application that we had written, and to add a user interface to it. I first tried dish (the Dynamic Invocation Shell), which is a Tcl front-end to ILU. I could not quite get used to the Tcl syntax, and suprisingly, integration of Tk into dish was difficult. I ended up doing a Tkinter application which then controlled the CORBA application (an SDL simulator written in C++).

IIRC, my first contribution to Python was the locale module (r9074), which (according to svn) happened in 1997. I remember that I wasn't quite sure what the right procedure for contributing was, and how long the email would have to be that I sent to Guido. I was surprised he accepted the patch relatively easily. Maybe I'm slightly misremembering: according to the logs, my first contribution was the documentation of the dis module (r9059). Maybe they were just committed the same day, though...

Richard Jones

Posts: 1
Nickname: rjones1
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 3:46 AM
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I blame Anthony - he introduced me to Python back in the 0.9 days. I downloaded it onto a floppy disk, and I quite fondly remember running through the tutorial on my cousin's 286 and being hooked. I worked for a "C and Fortran only, please" organisation so my use was restricted a little. My first contribution back was gdmodule; the final release by me was in 1995.

Is there any chance of getting the pre-1.5.2 releases up on python.org?

Jurjen Bos

Posts: 2
Nickname: jneb
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 4:15 AM
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My first time I used Python? Well that's about as long ago as the birth of Python itself.

I was a colleague of Guido and had done quite a bit of programming using Python's predecessor ABC: the programming language with the editor with too many features to be useful.
I did everything in ABC: I even generated addresses for my christmas cards with it!

Then, after the famous christmas holidays, Guido (who was my colleague at the time) said he made something better. I first didn't like the idea that I had to use an external editor to edit the files, but soon I realized that the Python way of thinking was so much better than the ABC way. I immediately switched, so I am proud to say that I actually used Python for virtually all my programming almost continuously for 16 years.

I did lots of little things. Most of my software is work related.
My most famous toy project is the "real numbers": a calculator that computes with infinite precision. (Yes, I should port it to 2.4. I know.)

- Jurjen

Sean McGrath

Posts: 9
Nickname: xmlgrunt
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 4:21 AM
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Started using Python around 1995 for SGML processing and as a glue language. Used Python as one of the three sample languages in my first book, SGML Processing for Software Developers, and have been using Python constantly ever since.

Eric Ringeisen

Posts: 1
Nickname: eringeisen
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 4:22 AM
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I've been using Python since 1995. At the time, I was looking for a script language which could be used as a front end to C modules (mostly numerical analysis modules). I experimented with the prehistoric syntax of Perl before I discovered Python. I take the opportunity to thank you for this wonderful software which saved me a lot of time during the past 10 years!

I program with a custom syntax, which I call relax python. It's ordinary python, only I don't have to put the member operator '.' between the object and it's attribute. It's very comfortable. The algorithm is simple: I filter the python tokens and add a dot before each name, if the previous token was a non keyword name or a string. By the way I wonder why keyword.iskeyword("as") returns False :)

Best regards.

Michael Hudson

Posts: 8
Nickname: mwh
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 4:34 AM
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It's not quite ten years but I first learnt about Python in this article: http://www.byte.com/art/9702/sec5/art4.htm.

It is about a third of my life ago, though. Yikes!

Baiju M

Posts: 225
Nickname: baijum81
Registered: Aug, 2004

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 7:21 AM
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I was working on Malayalam i18n & l10n works for FSF-India
in 2002. At that time free tools to create open type font
was not available. We had already decided not to use
Microsoft products for OTF font creation.
Then I found TTX by "Just Van Rossum"
(http://www.letterror.com/code/ttx/index.html)
It was very usefull for adding/editing Open type tables.
The font I created using TTX in 2002 is still availalble from
Yudit download archives.
http://yudit.org/download/fonts/MalOtf.ttf
http://yudit.org/download/fonts/MalOtf.txt
After few months when I started learning Python,
I started hearing a lot about "Guido Van Rossum"
I thought this is the same guy behind TTX, after
few weeks somehow I realised my mistake, hmm.. google
helped me :)

In fact my Python study was started like this,
I was using Redhat 8 or 9 at that time, I found that
redhat configuration tools are written in Python (PyGTK).
I didn't seriously looked into any scripting language before that. It was really easy to read those codes,
then I created my first app in one week, later I anounced
it here http://www.freelists.org/archives/fsug-calicut/10-2003/msg00002.html

Steve Howell

Posts: 1
Nickname: showell
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 9:12 AM
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I'm not an old-timer, and I actually fall into that strange category of people who were exposed to Python but didn't quite get it the first time around.

I was programming mostly in C/C++/Perl back in 1999, and I was given the task of looking into CORBA. I found a Python binding for CORBA, experimented a bit with it, liked Python, but never got deep enough into it to get hooked, and then I changed jobs, moved across country, etc., and Python fell off my radar.

Two years later, I was trying to build some simple web pages with a templating engine, got a bit frustrated with some Perl modules, and downloaded Cheetah. Cheetah got the job done well, and that's when I really started to appreciate the zen of Python programming. During the next couple years I contributed to two open source projects that have a Pythonic bent to them--YAML and Guido van Robot.

Now I'm fortunate enough to work at a company where Python is a major part of our infrastructure, so I've been doing 95% Python development for two years now. I love Python, as do most of my coworkers.

Barry Warsaw

Posts: 12
Nickname: pumpichank
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 9:14 AM
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I think I first heard about Python when the newsgroup comp.lang.python got created. I remember reading it for a while thinking, all these great Monty Python quotes were pretty funny, but why is this in comp.lang?!

Later, I joined CNRI to work on mobile agents and we settled on Objective-C on the NeXTs to do the work. Pretty soon after that Guido was giving his talk at NIST (the "first Python conference") and as I used to work there, still had friends there, and it was only a few miles away, I went with co-worker Roj.

We got to meet Guido, Jim, Paul and lots of the other early(er than us) adopters. IIRC, docstrings were the hot topic! The more we learned about Python the more we loved it (myself especially, having come from a fairly strong Tcl, Perl, C, C++ background). We were interested in some of the Python/Objective-C work and thought it would be really cool if we could use Python in this way for our research.

My own recollection is that a coworker of ours suggested that we should try to hire Guido, ostensibly to integrate Python and ObjC. As luck would have it, Guido wanted to come to the US and the rest is history. The best part is that Guido pretty quickly disavowed us of the need for ObjC at all, since it could all be done in Python (big surprise that he was right? :).

Anyway, those are my undoubtably faulty memories of my early days with Python. I've been fortunate enough to use it almost daily since probably late 1994, and to have worked with Guido and other smart Pythoneers in those early days.

ivan curtis

Posts: 1
Nickname: klepton
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 9:36 AM
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I started using python seriously in 1997. I was working in ASIC/custom IC design, which frequently involved writing tools of varying levels of complexity to support the design and implementation process.

Up to that time I had been using mostly awk for scripts and Modula3 when things got too serious for awk (although it's surprising how much you can do with awk).

When I read about Python in an article in Linux Journal in 1996, it felt like a good mix of the best parts of M3 and awk: language structures to support large programs, but dynamic and interpreted, so well suited to quick scripting jobs.

I have made heavy use of it since then. In the early days, you were forever having to explain why you were using this strange obscure language (but I was already used to that with M3 anyway!). Things have sure changed.

Andrew Kuchling

Posts: 4
Nickname: amk
Registered: Jan, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 9:43 AM
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I was an undergrad at McGill, reading the comp.sources newsgroup to find interesting new software, and came across a multi-segment posting of the Python source code. I installed it on my Linux-running 386 (using SLS, the very first Linux distribution -- 0.95pl6 was the kernel version in those days). I also voted for the creation of comp.lang.python.


For one of my CS classes, I had to do a programming project and give a presentation about it. I wrote a set of cryptographic extensions and some simple demo programs that used them. Later I made a similar presentation at the 1995 IPC workshop at the USGS, and met many of the Python developers at that time. While at that meeting, I meet someone from Magnet Interactive in Washington DC and ended up getting hired by them.

Jeff Bauer

Posts: 3
Nickname: rubic
Registered: Nov, 2005

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 9:54 AM
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I started using Python when version 1.1 appeared, probably around 1994. Prior, we were using C and "classic" Perl 4.0. We were probably the first shop to use Python on the SCO Unix platform. I wrote the first introductory Python article for the Linux Journal (issue #21) in 1996.

I first met Guido at the second Python Conference in California, a low-key affair of about 40 or so participants. I recall suggesting that booleans be added to the language, but they did not appear until several years later. A major achievement was getting Mark Lutz's Python book published by O'Reilly and Associates, which would "validate" the language. I also met Mark Hammond, the guy who had ported Python to the Windows platform.

By the time of the third conference, there was a steady buzz of excitement. Red Hat was using Python and including it as part of their product. Our company, Medical Support Services, was the first company to become paying a member of the Python Software Activity (PSA).

The early Python community was notable for being more friendly than the Perl guys, who made a fetish of obscure and arcane Unix knowledge. In contrast, Python programming appeared to be quite obvious from studying the code, especially the library source.

-Jeff Bauer

Sjoerd Mullender

Posts: 1
Nickname: ksm
Registered: May, 2006

Re: Looking for Memories of Python Old-Timers Posted: May 23, 2006 10:38 AM
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The first time I heard of Python was from Guido himself. We were sharing an office at the time, so it was no wonder that we discussed Python, and it was also no wonder that I started writing Python code early on.

Looking at the log files, I see that my first actual contributions to the Python source date from April 1992. At the time, Guido and myself (and also some other people) were working on CMIFed which much later (long after Guido left CWI) turned into GRiNS. CMIFed was a multimedia authoring system with builtin playback support. It was written in Python with extensions written in C. It was also multi-platform. In the early days that meant Guido's Mac and our SGI systems. This system was the reason for the relatively large number of SGI multimedia libraries that early Python supported.

Most of my early contributions had to do with multimedia support on SGI computers. Since I shared an office with Guido at the time, I'm sure we discussed various aspects of the language. I also remember designing a thread library which we used for CMIFed that hid the differences between the available thread implementation on the various platforms we were dealing with at the time. Guido used my (C) library as basis for the thread support in Python. Vestiges of this can still be seen in today's Python.

Looking at the CVS/SVN logs of Python, I see that I am the first person after Guido to check anything in, and before I checked in my first contribution, Guido already checked in some of my contributions. Three weeks before the first mention of my name in the logs, there is the first mention of one Tim Peters...

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