Python indentation deters newbies?

Richard Hanson me at
Mon Aug 16 17:10:30 CEST 2004

[Peter Hansen wrote:]

>simo wrote:
>> I'm a Perl programmer at heart - well that and PHP, plus the odd
>> dabbling in C/C++/C# etc.
>> Anyway, the thought of indentation instead of curly braces really put
>> me off to start with, 
>Ah, good.  Someone who was really there, instead of hearsay.
> [...]
>I'm curious why more people don't have "neat!" as their very
>first thought on encountering this, rather than "yuck!".

[farther down-thread Peter Hansen wrote:]

>For example, if 90% of people who have the "indentation rash"
>had previous encounters with FORTRAN IV, then it ought to
>be possible to make it obvious in the early documentation
>(tutorial, intro page, etc) that Python is not FORTRAN and
>doesn't suffer from the same limitations with respect to
>indentation/whitespace significance as FORTRAN does.

Not sure if I'm an unqualified newbie, but I'm a relative Python
newbie. When I first encountered Python's indentation, my
reaction was: "Of course!" -- in a seriously head-slapping way.

Neat! -- is putting my reaction mildly. :-)

I went on to learn more Python, and now I'm almost a Python
zealot. :-)

However, as I mentioned above, I may not qualify as a newbie in
the context of this discussion. I started out programming on IBM
1410s and related mainframes way back in 1968 by punching
programs into stacks of IBM (Hollerith) cards. The first language
we learned in our, first-in-the-district (Portland, Oregon),
high-school "computer" course *was* FORTRAN IV -- laboriously
keypunched into those cards where different columns had different
meanings. (I don't quite remember all the details. I still have
boxes of my rubber-banded-together stacks of cards around,
somewhere, but I'm too lazy to go look for them, now. <wink>)

In any event, I went on to learn React (a PL/1 variant),
miscellaneous BASICs, various desktop and handheld HP calculator
languages, HP71B Basic (very advanced -- had NaN, Inf, and such),
Forth, C, C++, Smalltalk, newer Fortrans, and so on until finally
hitting upon Python several years ago.

For me, a not insignificant part of Python's genius *is* the
indentation. When I used C and C++ I was a stickler (pedant? :-)
) for "proper" indentation -- which was a PITA. So -- I took to
Python's indentation like a duck to water.

That all said, I don't know if my story is the type of story a
typical Python newbie would present, but since this thread has
been going on for several day, I thought I'd add another
datapoint. :-)

ole-dinosaur-ly y'rs,

R Hanson [The mangled email addie below works.]

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