What is Python, and What is it Used For?

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Python is a popular programming language used for all kinds of things, from building Instagram, to powering video games, to helping with rocket design for NASA. Let’s take a look at what Python is, how it’s used, and why it’s a great choice for programming beginners.

 

So what is Python, exactly?

From the Python wiki beginner’s guide: “Python is a clear and powerful object-oriented programming language, comparable to Perl, Ruby, Scheme, or Java.” Basically, Python is a general-purpose programming language, designed to be simple, fast, and easy to understand.

 

A funny story

Python was created in the late 1980s by a Dutch guy named Guido van Rossum. Python’s name and logo both make people associate it with the snake. But in fact, van Rossum named the language after Monty Python, the famous British sketch comedy group.

monty-python-programming

 

An easy language for beginners

Python is designed to be easy to understand. It’s very similar to the English language, so it’s easy to read and talk about with others. There are lots of helpful guidelines in place that make it easier to write, format, and also understand someone else’s code. For example, punctuation is simpler in Python—there are less brackets all over the place. This accessibility is why Python has surpassed Java as the most popular introductory teaching language at U.S. universities.

 

Should you learn Python?

Python’s been around since the 80s, so you know it has staying power. It’s free and available under an open source license. This long history also means that there’s a ton of code already written in Python, and because it’s open source and catalogued, you can pick and choose from libraries with just about anything you want to add to your script.

Right now in PyPI, the Python package index, there are 77,231 packages of code available on nearly every imaginable subject.

 

Who uses Python?

Python is used in all kinds of industries. Let’s take a look at a few.

Lots of recognizable websites and apps use Python, including Reddit, Quora, Spotify, Pinterest, and Dropbox (where Python creator Guido van Rossum now works).

Python

 

If you’re interested in the highly-in-demand field of data science, Python is for you. Lots of data scientists use Python because it has many libraries for collecting and organizing data.

Many academics and scientists use Python as well, including NASA. For scientists, it’s easy to use and maintain, and there are libraries for earth science, math, geography, and more.

It’s also used in movie production. According to Tommy Burnette, Senior Technical Director at Industrial Light & Magic, “Python plays a key role in our production pipeline. Without it a project the size of Star Wars: Episode II would have been very difficult to pull off. From crowd rendering to batch processing to compositing, Python binds all things together.”

 

Why not give Python a try? Check out Tech Rocket’s popular Python courses, designed to be easy and fun for kids and teens.

 

Images via the BBC, Dropbox, and Python.org.

James Knutila Editorial Lead
James joined the Tech Rocket team in 2016. He writes about the intersection of technology, design, and education.
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