Why did no one invent Python before?

Erik Max Francis max at alcyone.com
Thu Jun 3 01:26:20 CEST 2004

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 && max at alcyone.com && 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

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