Why did no one invent Python before?

Discussion in 'Python' started by j_mckitrick, Jun 2, 2004.

  1. j_mckitrick

    j_mckitrick Guest

    Yes, it's a silly question, but given how far we have come, why is it
    that a natural looking, easy to read, incredibly powerful language has
    appeared only recently, from a tech standpoint?

    I can't *believe* how much more productive I am with the built in data
    types and powerful expressions Python offers. It made me want to quit
    my C++ job. Well, not quite. ;-)

    Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing? And aside
    from the interpreter, because while it is nice, it's not the main
    forte' of the language, IMHO.

    jonathon
    j_mckitrick, Jun 2, 2004
    #1
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  2. j_mckitrick

    Terry Reedy Guest

    "j_mckitrick" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing?


    Actually, it was released over a decade ago, which is hardly 'now' by CS
    standards. Perhaps you should ask why you didn't hear about it and
    download it sooner? In any case, welcome to the community of Python
    enthusiasts.

    Terry J. Reedy
    Terry Reedy, Jun 3, 2004
    #2
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  3. j_mckitrick

    Jeff Epler Guest

    Python's been around for more than a decade at this point. ABC came
    before that, and was broadly similar to Python in its syntax. Earlier
    still, Apple's Hypertalk was a "natural looking, easy to read,
    incredibly powerful language" for hypercard. We're now all the way back to
    the mid or late 80s (the Internet didn't immediately answer that
    question for me).

    Myself, I've been using Python for something like 9 years, and loving
    every moment of it.

    Jeff

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    Jeff Epler, Jun 3, 2004
    #3
  4. j_mckitrick wrote:

    > Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing? And aside
    > from the interpreter, because while it is nice, it's not the main
    > forte' of the language, IMHO.


    I think there's some validity to this question. It probably has to do
    with a combination of things. First, it takes a while from the
    inception of a language before it gets enough development behind it that
    it's as powerful as Python is. Even if everyone immediately recognizes
    the merits of the languages, it takes a sort of "critical mass" of
    people before it really takes off, in terms of usage and people hearing
    about it, as well as in terms of building enough of the standard
    libraries to make doing advanced things with it a snap. Of course,
    things like the Internet have contributed to letting people get in touch
    with each other much more easily. Remember that Python has been around
    for over ten years; it takes a while for a language to become stable,
    build up a developer community that continues to add features to it, and
    attracts a base of users. Even with the Internet, that takes time.

    Additionally, I think it's at least partially a matter of building up
    "technology," so to speak. First, computers have been getting faster
    and more powerful for a long time now, of course, but it's only the last
    five years or so where it's really been practical to make a high-level
    language whose primary concern is not speed, but where machines are fast
    enough that for a very large majority of applications. There has
    certainly been a niche market for high-level languages in the past, but
    computers were often limited enough that you had to carefully fit them
    to a task. Nowadays computers are so fast and have so much memory that
    it's the other way around -- you usually don't need to worry about raw
    performance at all.

    Second on the "technology" front is, to lump a bunch of things together
    in one term, the computer science. It takes a while to build up
    powerful high-level programming ideas that can be brought to bear easily
    and effectively in a programming language. Language designers need to
    put things together in a way that makes sense, is relatively easy to
    use, and is also powerful. Lots of languages don't do it well. Python
    does, and I think there are other examples that also fit into the first
    technology point, but haven't reached massive popularity yet, like Io.

    Simply put, we live in a time where we have computers that are fast
    enough that it's very practical to use high-level languages, and we live
    in a time where we've had enough practice at it that the the creme of
    the crop are really good at what they do. That makes the creation of
    something like Python possible.

    --
    __ Erik Max Francis && && http://www.alcyone.com/max/
    / \ San Jose, CA, USA && 37 20 N 121 53 W && AIM erikmaxfrancis
    \__/ Love is when you wake up in the morning and have a big smile.
    -- Anggun
    Erik Max Francis, Jun 3, 2004
    #4
  5. In article <>,
    (j_mckitrick) wrote:

    >Yes, it's a silly question, but given how far we have come, why is it
    >that a natural looking, easy to read, incredibly powerful language has
    >appeared only recently, from a tech standpoint?
    >
    >I can't *believe* how much more productive I am with the built in data
    >types and powerful expressions Python offers. It made me want to quit
    >my C++ job. Well, not quite. ;-)
    >
    >Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing? And aside
    >from the interpreter, because while it is nice, it's not the main
    >forte' of the language, IMHO.


    I think smalltalk users would argue that it was done many years ago. It
    looks a bit odd at first to C programmers, but is easy to learn and has
    most of the strengths of python:
    - interpreted
    - automatic garbage collection
    - simple and clean
    - powerful
    - rich set of collection types
    - rich set of libraries

    There are a few important differences:
    - much worse for scripting
    - built in GUI
    - much better development environment; you really don't know what you're
    missing until you've used smalltalk's browsers, inspectors and
    debuggers. It's the main thing I really, really miss in python.

    I think lisp users would also argue for their language. It's really
    weird to non-lisp users (much more so than smalltalk is to C/python
    programmers) but really powerful.

    Anyway, I did not intend to detract from your praise of python. It is a
    wonderful language, and my main language right now.

    -- Russell
    Russell E. Owen, Jun 3, 2004
    #5
  6. On 2004-06-02, Russell E. Owen <> wrote:

    >>Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing? And
    >>aside from the interpreter, because while it is nice, it's not
    >>the main forte' of the language, IMHO.

    >
    > I think smalltalk users would argue that it was done many years ago. It
    > looks a bit odd at first to C programmers, but is easy to learn and has
    > most of the strengths of python:
    > - interpreted
    > - automatic garbage collection
    > - simple and clean
    > - powerful
    > - rich set of collection types
    > - rich set of libraries
    >
    > There are a few important differences:
    > - much worse for scripting
    > - built in GUI
    > - much better development environment; you really don't know what you're
    > missing until you've used smalltalk's browsers, inspectors and
    > debuggers. It's the main thing I really, really miss in python.


    The big difference between Smalltalk (back then) and Python
    (now) is the price of admission -- both financially and
    mentally.

    Smalltalk was an amazingly cool system, but I don't remember
    any usable free Smalltalk systems until recently. I think I
    paid several hundred USD for the "entry" level version of
    Smalltalk for a '286 about 15 years back. Add-on libraries
    weren't free, and had to be purchased separately. It was cool,
    but it didn't integrate with _anything_. It was a world unto
    itself. You launched it from DOS, and it completely took over
    the machine. Smalltalk was the OS. You couldn't ease into
    Smalltalk the way you can with Python. You jumped into the
    deep end and either swam or drowned. With python, you can get
    your feet wet by wading around in the shallows and gradually
    learn to swim as you have the time and inclination.

    --
    Grant Edwards grante Yow! A dwarf is passing
    at out somewhere in Detroit!
    visi.com
    Grant Edwards, Jun 3, 2004
    #6
  7. j_mckitrick

    Peter Hansen Guest

    j_mckitrick wrote:

    > Yes, it's a silly question, but given how far we have come, why is it
    > that a natural looking, easy to read, incredibly powerful language has
    > appeared only recently, from a tech standpoint?


    Python is almost ancient, from a tech standpoint, as it's over
    ten years old...

    > Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing?


    I would claim that Rexx, which appeared long before even Python
    was invented, is quite "like this" language we currently love.

    -Peter
    Peter Hansen, Jun 3, 2004
    #7
  8. On 2 Jun 2004 15:49:30 -0700, (j_mckitrick)
    declaimed the following in comp.lang.python:

    > Yes, it's a silly question, but given how far we have come, why is it
    > that a natural looking, easy to read, incredibly powerful language has
    > appeared only recently, from a tech standpoint?
    >

    Define "recently".

    FORTRAN goes back the tail-end of the 50s, and COBOL and LISP
    aren't too distant from it. Call it 1960.

    I was using Python on my Amiga nearly a decade ago (when did the
    first edition of the Python book come out?). Say 30 years to go from '60
    to '90.

    Now consider that for much of that period, computers were these
    big monolithic things that billed one by the second -- making
    interpreters rather expensive to run, not to mention editing on card
    decks.

    It takes computer power to process a language... Imagine having
    to pay the time used for Python, when running on a processor like my
    college mainframe (we had 1MB of core! It was a big event when we
    obtained a pair of 300MB drives to support the OS swap space). Oh, and
    terminals ran at 1200baud, monochrome, text-only.

    --
    > ============================================================== <
    > | Wulfraed Dennis Lee Bieber KD6MOG <
    > | Bestiaria Support Staff <
    > ============================================================== <
    > Home Page: <http://www.dm.net/~wulfraed/> <
    > Overflow Page: <http://wlfraed.home.netcom.com/> <
    Dennis Lee Bieber, Jun 3, 2004
    #8
  9. j_mckitrick

    fishboy Guest

    On Thu, 03 Jun 2004 04:26:27 GMT, Dennis Lee Bieber
    <> wrote:


    > Now consider that for much of that period, computers were these
    >big monolithic things that billed one by the second -- making
    >interpreters rather expensive to run, not to mention editing on card
    >decks.
    >
    > It takes computer power to process a language... Imagine having
    >to pay the time used for Python, when running on a processor like my
    >college mainframe (we had 1MB of core! It was a big event when we
    >obtained a pair of 300MB drives to support the OS swap space). Oh, and
    >terminals ran at 1200baud, monochrome, text-only.
    >

    and you had to use upload bandwidth both ways....

    rats! just remembered someone made this joke already in #twisted.

    ><{{{*>
    fishboy, Jun 3, 2004
    #9
  10. j_mckitrick

    Hung Jung Lu Guest

    "Russell E. Owen" <> wrote:
    > I think smalltalk users would argue that it was done many years ago.
    > ...
    > I think lisp users would also argue for their language. It's really
    > weird to non-lisp users (much more so than smalltalk is to C/python
    > programmers) but really powerful.


    Another two sets of languages that are smart in different dimensions:

    (a) Haskell: functional programming,
    (b) Self/AppleScript/Io: prototype-based OOP (PB-OOP).

    regards,

    Hung Jung
    Hung Jung Lu, Jun 3, 2004
    #10
  11. j_mckitrick

    Alan Gauld Guest

    On Thu, 03 Jun 2004 04:26:27 GMT, Dennis Lee Bieber
    <> wrote:
    > > Yes, it's a silly question, but given how far we have come, why is it
    > > that a natural looking, easy to read, incredibly powerful language has
    > > appeared only recently, from a tech standpoint?


    > FORTRAN goes back the tail-end of the 50s, and COBOL and LISP
    > aren't too distant from it. Call it 1960.


    And the power of data structures like dictionaries weren't really
    appreciated till the 70's and standard *efficent* implementations
    weren't available till about the early 80's. Now given that much
    of Pythons innards consist of nothing but dictionaries, it would
    have been difficult to build something like python(or ABC) toill
    at least the mid 80's. ABC was late 80's, so not so very far
    behind the state of the art...

    > It takes computer power to process a language... Imagine having
    > to pay the time used for Python, when running on a processor like my
    > college mainframe


    True, although BASIC was atound in 1963 and interpreted - but
    with a very much simpler syntax than Python...

    Alan G.
    Author of the Learn to Program website
    http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/alan.gauld
    Alan Gauld, Jun 3, 2004
    #11
  12. Steve Lamb wrote:
    > On 2004-06-03, Roy Smith <> wrote:
    >
    >>All python did was provide a good programming environment.

    >
    >
    > That's not all. There is one thing that I've heard more about Python than
    > any other language. People, myself included, say it is fun to program in
    > Python. Fun. I find programming neat but I would never say that my time
    > programming in Turbo Pascal or Perl was fun. :)
    >

    Hear Hear !!! I'll second that. Programming in pythong is fun.

    -matthew
    Matthew Thorley, Jun 3, 2004
    #12
  13. In article <>,
    Erik Max Francis <> wrote:
    >j_mckitrick wrote:
    >
    >> Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing? And aside
    >> from the interpreter, because while it is nice, it's not the main
    >> forte' of the language, IMHO.

    >
    >I think there's some validity to this question. It probably has to do
    >with a combination of things. First, it takes a while from the

    .
    [thoughtful analysis]
    .
    .
    >Simply put, we live in a time where we have computers that are fast
    >enough that it's very practical to use high-level languages, and we live
    >in a time where we've had enough practice at it that the the creme of
    >the crop are really good at what they do. That makes the creation of
    >something like Python possible.

    .
    .
    .
    I see as critical enough time to make sufficient mistakes.
    Some of what's right about Python was *not* designed, but
    discovered. Being the finite humans we are, on occasions
    it takes us a bit of experience and practice and stumbling
    before we're ready to see clearly.
    --

    Cameron Laird <>
    Business: http://www.Phaseit.net
    Cameron Laird, Jun 3, 2004
    #13
  14. In article <c9lpkp$sk2$>,
    Russell E. Owen <> wrote:
    .
    .
    .
    >I think smalltalk users would argue that it was done many years ago. It

    .
    .
    .
    >I think lisp users would also argue for their language. It's really
    >weird to non-lisp users (much more so than smalltalk is to C/python
    >programmers) but really powerful.
    >
    >Anyway, I did not intend to detract from your praise of python. It is a
    >wonderful language, and my main language right now.

    .
    .
    .
    Those are the two natural high points I see, too. We're
    *still* trying to get back to their accomplishments, in
    plenty of ways. LISP first appeared in the '50s, Small-
    talk sometime between '71 and '76, depending on whom you
    ask (I like the '71 nucleus, myself). Those looking for
    other antique ways to blow minds should also consider
    Forth. Moore first called it that in 1968, although at
    that point he was re-using code and design elements that
    first appeared in his writings at the end of the '50s.
    --

    Cameron Laird <>
    Business: http://www.Phaseit.net
    Cameron Laird, Jun 3, 2004
    #14
  15. In article <>,
    Peter Hansen <> wrote:
    >j_mckitrick wrote:

    .
    .
    .
    >> Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing?

    >
    >I would claim that Rexx, which appeared long before even Python
    >was invented, is quite "like this" language we currently love.
    >
    >-Peter


    Good catch. I find Rexx similar also in the passion it
    has inspired in some users, particularly in its Amiga
    (and, in a more subdued way, OS/2) manifestation(s).
    --

    Cameron Laird <>
    Business: http://www.Phaseit.net
    Cameron Laird, Jun 3, 2004
    #15
  16. j_mckitrick

    Tim Bradshaw Guest

    (j_mckitrick) wrote in message news:<>...
    > Yes, it's a silly question, but given how far we have come, why is it
    > that a natural looking, easy to read, incredibly powerful language has
    > appeared only recently, from a tech standpoint?


    Well, discarding the fact that Python isn't really new, I think there
    are several factors (in no particular order):

    * machine speed/cost. Machines probably started offering enough
    price/performance (or just simply enough raw performance, ad any
    price) to make languages which concentrated on human usability rather
    than optimising performance at the price of everything else viable
    around 20 years ago. 10 years after that programmers noticed this
    (many still have not, of course, and bizarrely also have not noticed
    that machines are no longer like PDP11s, resulting in lots of
    `optimized'-but-slow programs...).

    * Language design issues. A lot of the people who designed languages
    which were oriented towards usability rather than performance fell
    into the trap of designing those languages for expert users: people
    who would want to do lots of really advanced things with the language,
    such as design their own domain languages and so on. The tradeoffs
    needed to do this typically steepened the learning curve for the
    language enough that lots of people just gace up. Lisp is the classic
    example of this. Python has got this just right: it's really easy to
    learn Python - no hairy macros or strange syntax to support them - and
    unless you come from a Lisp background it only occasionally feels like
    hammering nails into your own head.

    * Big standard libraries. I think this is largely an artifact of the
    technology boom. For much of Python's life high-tech companies were
    making so much money that it was considered fine for people to work on
    some library for Python. That's somewhat changed now, but Python is
    way over critical mass.

    --tim

    *
    Tim Bradshaw, Jun 3, 2004
    #16
  17. In article <>,
    Dennis Lee Bieber <> wrote:
    .
    .
    .
    > I was using Python on my Amiga nearly a decade ago (when did the
    >first edition of the Python book come out?). Say 30 years to go from '60

    .
    .
    .
    O'Reilly published the first edition of *Programming Python*
    in October 1996; is that what you're after?
    --

    Cameron Laird <>
    Business: http://www.Phaseit.net
    Cameron Laird, Jun 3, 2004
    #17
  18. j_mckitrick

    j_mckitrick Guest

    > - much better development environment; you really don't know what you're
    > missing until you've used smalltalk's browsers, inspectors and
    > debuggers. It's the main thing I really, really miss in python.


    I keep hearing about this Smalltalk IDE. What is really the big deal,
    and why hasn't MS ripped it off? I tried to find screenshots but
    couldn't. I also applied for a demo download, but never heard back
    from the company.

    jonathon
    j_mckitrick, Jun 3, 2004
    #18
  19. j_mckitrick <> wrote:
    >Seriously, why is a language like this only NOW appearing?


    As others have pointed out, Python has been around for a good
    decade (as have a number of other powerfully expressive
    languages, particularly in the functional camp). A more
    pertinent question might be why, when languages like this
    appeared some time ago, are monstrosities like C# still being
    created? (I recently saw some basic socket server code in C#
    -- it's a poor reflection on a supposedly modern, high-level
    language when the pure C equivalent would be *less* verbose.
    And the library designers appear to have not encountered the
    concept of polymorphism.)

    --
    \S -- -- http://www.chaos.org.uk/~sion/
    ___ | "Frankly I have no feelings towards penguins one way or the other"
    \X/ | -- Arthur C. Clarke
    her nu becomeþ se bera eadward ofdun hlæddre heafdes bæce bump bump bump
    Sion Arrowsmith, Jun 3, 2004
    #19
  20. j_mckitrick

    PiedmontBiz Guest

    >
    >The big difference between Smalltalk (back then) and Python
    >(now) is the price of admission -- both financially and
    >mentally.
    >
    >Smalltalk was an amazingly cool system, but I don't remember
    >any usable free Smalltalk systems until recently. I think I
    >paid several hundred USD for the "entry" level version of
    >Smalltalk for a '286 about 15 years back. Add-on libraries
    >weren't free, and had to be purchased separately. It was cool,
    >but it didn't integrate with _anything_. It was a world unto
    >itself. You launched it from DOS, and it completely took over
    >the machine. Smalltalk was the OS. You couldn't ease into
    >Smalltalk the way you can with Python. You jumped into the
    >deep end and either swam or drowned. With python, you can get
    >your feet wet by wading around in the shallows and gradually
    >learn to swim as you have the time and inclination.
    >



    I played around with Little Small talk some years back (Tim Budd)
    I got it to compile on Minix then lost interest.
    I recall that Guido VR did the Macintosh version of it -- windowing system I
    believe.

    I googled but found no mention of it (actually only checked 2 screens)

    I am curious why he left that project behind.

    allen
    PiedmontBiz, Jun 3, 2004
    #20
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