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Python and the Programmer
A Conversation with Bruce Eckel, Part I
by Bill Venners
Jun 2, 2003

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Summary
Bruce Eckel talks with Bill Venners about why he feels Python is "about him," how minimizing clutter improves productivity, and the relationship between backwards compatibility and programmer pain.

Bruce Eckel wrote the best-selling books Thinking in C++ and Thinking in Java, but for the past several years he's preferred to think in Python. Two years ago, Eckel gave a keynote address at the 9th International Python Conference entitled "Why I love Python." He presented ten reasons he loves programming in Python in "top ten list" style, starting with ten and ending with one.

In this interview, which is being published in weekly installments, I ask Bruce Eckel about each of these ten points. In this installment, Bruce Eckel explains why he feels Python is "about him," how minimizing clutter improves productivity, and the relationship between backwards compatibility and programmer pain.

Bill Venners: In the introduction to your "Why I Love Python" keynote, you said what you love the most is "Python is about you." How is Python about you?

Bruce Eckel: With every other language I've had to deal with, it's always felt like the designers were saying, "Yes, we're trying to make your life easier with this language, but these other things are more important." With Python, it has always felt like the designers were saying, "We're trying to make your life easier, and that's it. Making your life easier is the thing that we're not compromising on."

For example, the designers of C++ certainly attempted to make the programmer's life easier, but always made compromises for performance and backwards compatibility. If you ever had a complaint about the way C++ worked, the answer was performance and backwards compatibility.

Bill Venners: What compromises do you see in Java? James Gosling did try to make programmers more productive by eliminating memory bugs.

Bruce Eckel: Sure. I also think that Java's consistency of error handling helped programmer productivity. C++ introduced exception handling, but that was just one of many ways to handle errors in C++. At one time, I thought that Java's checked exceptions were helpful, but I've modified my view on that. (See Resources.)

It seems the compromise in Java is marketing. They had to rush Java out to market. If they had taken a little more time and implemented design by contract, or even just assertions, or any number of other features, it would have been better for the programmer. If they had done design and code reviews, they would have found all sorts of silliness. And I suppose the way Java is marketed is probably what rubs me the wrong way about it. We can say, "Oh, but we don't like this feature," and the answer is, "Yes, but, marketing dictates that it be this way."

Maybe the compromises in C++ were for marketing reasons too. Although choosing to be efficient and backwards compatible with C was done to sell C++ to techies, it was still to sell it to somebody.

I feel Python was designed for the person who is actually doing the programming, to maximize their productivity. And that just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. I feel nobody is going to be telling me, "Oh yeah, you have to jump through all these hoops for one reason or another." When you have the experience of really being able to be as productive as possible, then you start to get pissed off at other languages. You think, "Gee, I've been wasting my time with these other languages."

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