Beginning programming with Python

Aaron Ginn (rp2885) rp2885 at
Thu Nov 11 23:04:41 CET 1999

Ivan Van Laningham wrote:

> Hi All--
> Aaron Ginn wrote:
> >
> > Hello all,
> >
> > I'm starting a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting computer
> > literacy in low-income youth (ages 12-18).
> An admirable goal indeed.  I will be interested in hearing how well this
> works.  Are you affiliating yourself with any municipal, civic or
> religious organizations?

I've created a website for our organization at

The site is a little out of date at this point.  The original goal was to use
only Linux as the base OS for this project.  However, one of the people I've
recruited to work on this is a C.S. professor at Arizona State who has a contact
in the Microsoft Education office.  We hope that Microsoft will supply us with
free licenses so that we can put dual-boot machines together for the kids.  If
they do, I'll definately have to change our logo! :)

All of the people I've recruited in this go to my church, and we will use the
church as our meeting place, but we have no religious agenda.

> > The curriculum will
> > include an introduction to programming using either Python or Perl.
> >
> > First, I know Perl very well, but I know nothing about Python.  I've
> > heard from many sources that Python is the best language to teach
> > someone with no programming experience because it emphasizes
> > fundamentals and the correct (i.e. best) way to program.  Could anyone
> > comment on how the two languages compare in this aspect?  Also, I will
> > need to learn Python as well if I choose to go that route.  I am very
> > literate with Perl and Tcl/TK.  How quickly can I expect to pick up
> > Python?
> >
> *Extremely* quickly.  In fact, if you'd started yesterday you wouldn't
> need to ask this question.

That's what I expected.  I perused the books in question and musc of the syntax
looked _exactly_ like Perl.

An honest opinion, please; is Python better suited for beginners than Perl, as
I've heard?

> > Secondly, if I choose to use Python for this, I would like to supply
> > each student with a reference book on Python.  I've narrowed it down
> > to a choice between the two O'Reilly books, "Programming Python" and
> > "Learning Python".  PP apears to have a lot more meat to it, but LP
> > appears to be more suited to the beginner.  Assuming the audience
> > includes kids that have never programmed before, should I go with LP,
> > or will I miss out on anything by not getting the more detailed book?
> >
> Of the two books mentioned, yes, _Learning Python_ would be the better
> choice.  However, if you can wait, _Teach Yourself Python in 24 Hours_
> is aimed *specifically* at people who have never programmed before.  It
> covers:
>         1)  Introduction to programming (*rock-bottom* fundamentals--what's a
> variable? What's a for loop?)
>         2)  Introduction to Object-oriented programming
>         3)  Introduction to Tkinter

> The three parts have 8 chapters each.
> TYPython will be out early next year.  When is your course starting?
> Where is Chandler?-)

We are planning on starting our training in March, so I can wait a while.  I'll
probably pick up a copy of PP for myself in the meantime.

Chandler is a suburb of Phoenix.  Actually, I live 1 mile from the Phoenix

> PP is very thorough, but needs a new edition.
> LP is aimed at people who do have some idea of how to program, and is a
> gentle way to further your programming skills.
> Both books are funny and interesting, too.
> TYPython is for total newbies; I can't speak to either funny or
> interesting (modesty overwhelms me), but I try to get their attention.
> None of these three books is a *reference*, however.  If you really want
> a reference, then you're better off with Dave Beazley's _Python:
> Essential Reference_.  But you need to know Python before you can make
> use of it.

Reference was a bad choice of words.  I want a book that will introduce the kids
to basic programming fundamentals and will provide examples of how to do things
in a given language that is easy to learn.  I don't want "Python in a Nutshell"
if such a thing even exists.

> Hope this helps,

It does.  Thanks a lot!


> <oh-goodness-i-am-so-shy-i-embarass-myself>-ly y'rs,
> Ivan
> <or-is-that-shameless-shameless-plugs-r-us?>-ly y'rs,
> Ivan
> ----------------------------------------------
> Ivan Van Laningham
> Callware Technologies, Inc.
> ivanlan at
> ivanlan at
> See also:
> Army Signal Corps:  Cu Chi, Class of '70
> Author:  Teach Yourself Python in 24 Hours
> ----------------------------------------------

Aaron J. Ginn                     Motorola SPS
Phone: (480) 814-4463             SemiCustom Solutions
Fax:   (480) 814-4058             1300 N. Alma School Rd.
mailto:aaron.ginn at    Chandler, AZ 85226

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