Python is a widely used, high-level programming language named after the famous British sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. However, its reptilian namesake may be more fitting. Python is simple in its design, yet incredibly flexible and powerful. In fact, considering Python code is easy to read and enforces good programming style without being overly strict about syntax, many believe Python to be the best introductory programming language.
Looking for more of a technical definition? Okay, here’s how the Python Software Foundation describes Python:
Python is an interpreted, interactive, object-oriented programming language. It incorporates modules, exceptions, dynamic typing, very high level dynamic data types, and classes. Python combines remarkable power with very clear syntax. It has interfaces to many system calls and libraries, as well as to various window systems, and is extensible in C or C++. It is also usable as an extension language for applications that need a programmable interface. Finally, Python is portable: it runs on many Unix variants, on the Mac, and on PCs under MS-DOS, Windows, Windows NT, and OS/2.
What Programming Language To Learn First?
Depending on your career goals, Python may be the language to start with. To illustrate how Python differs from other introductory languages, think back to when you were a teenager.
Learning to program using Python is a lot like driving your parents’ minivan. Sure, it’s not flashy, and before you’re behind the wheel the first time, you have no idea what you’re doing. But once you’ve taken a few trips around a parking lot you’ll begin to understand how to drive and quickly discover everything that’s possible with this new-found skill.
Trying to learn to program using C (or even Assembly) is like learning how to drive by assembling your parents’ minivan. You’ll be stuck in the garage for years putting the van together, and while you may eventually emerge with a full appreciation of how the vehicle works and be able to troubleshoot and predict future issues, chances are you’ll burn out before ever getting behind the wheel.
Benefits of Python
Python is nothing if not versatile. You can automate workflows, create websites, and build desktop applications and games with Python. In fact, demand for advanced Python framework developers (PostgreSQL, OOP, Flask, Djangoon) has exploded over the past few years at companies like Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest, to name a few—not to mention that 80 percent of the top computer science programs in the country teach Python as the introduction to the program.
Not convinced? Let’s break down the power of Python.
A general purpose, high-level language
Python is referred to as general purpose, high-level programming language, meaning you can use Python to create essentially any type of program or software. This versatility keeps you interested because you’re developing programs and solutions catered to your interests, rather than getting stuck in the weeds worrying about syntax (things like remembering to add a semicolon at the end of each line).
An interpreted language
Python is an interpreted programming language, which means you don’t need to bother learning how to compile code. Since there is no compilation step, productivity is increased and the time to edit/test/debug is considerably reduced. Simply download an integrated development environment (IDE), write your code, and press “Run”.
Readability is key
Python’s simple, easy-to-learn syntax emphasizes readability and enforces good programming style, such as indenting and the importance of naming conventions. Not only can you express concepts in far fewer lines of code, it also forces you to consider your programming logic and algorithms. To that end, it is often used as a scripting, or glue, language to connect existing components together and churn out large quantities of easily readable and functional code in short periods of time.
It’s just fun
You can’t name your language after Monty Python without having a little fun. An important goal of both the creator of Python, Guido van Rossum, and the current administrators of the language (Python Software Foundation) is to make Python fun and easy to use. In fact, a test was run comparing the time it takes to write a simple script in the various languages (Python, Java, C, J, BASIC). It was determined that while the other languages certainly should not be ignored:
[Python] requires less time, less lines of code, and less concepts to be taught to reach a given goal. […] Finally, programming in Python is fun! Fun and frequent success breeds confidence and interest in the student, who is then better placed to continue learning to program.”
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