Python was invented around 1990 by Guido van Rossum, when he was at CWI in Amsterdam. Despite the reptiles, it is named after the BBC comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus, of which Guido is a fan (see the following silly sidebar). Guido was also involved with the Amoeba distributed operating system and the ABC language. In fact, the original motivation for Python was to create an advanced scripting language for the Amoeba system.
But Python's design turned out to be general enough to address a wide variety of domains. It's now used by hundreds of thousands of engineers around the world, in increasingly diverse roles. Companies use Python today in commercial products, for tasks such as testing chips and boards, developing GUIs, searching the Web, animating movies, scripting games, serving up maps and email on the Internet, customizing C++ class libraries, and much more. In fact, because Python is a completely general-purpose language, its target domains are only limited by the scope of computers in general.
 See the preface for more examples of companies using Python in these ways, and see http://www.python.org for a more comprehensive list of commercial applications.
Since it first appeared on the public domain scene in 1991, Python has continued to attract a loyal following, and spawned a dedicated Internet newsgroup, comp.lang.python, in 1994. And as the first edition of this book was being written in 1995, Python's home page debuted on the WWW at http://www.python.org -- still the official place to find all things Python.
What s in a Name?
Python gets its name from the 1970s British TV comedy series, Monty Python's Flying Circus. According to Python folklore, Guido van Rossum, Python's creator, was watching reruns of the show at about the same time he needed a name for a new language he was developing. And, as they say in show business, "the rest is history."
Because of this heritage, references to the comedy group's work often show up in examples and discussion. For instance, the name "Spam" has a special connotation to Python users, and confrontations are sometimes referred to as "The Spanish Inquisition." As a rule, if a Python user starts using phrases that have no relation to reality, they're probably borrowed from the Monty Python series or movies. Some of these phrases might even pop up in this book. You don't have to run out and rent The Meaning of Life or The Holy Grail to do useful work in Python, of course, but it can't hurt.
While "Python" turned out to be a distinctive name, it's also had some interesting side effects. For instance, when the Python newsgroup, comp.lang.python, came online in 1994, its first few weeks of activity were almost entirely taken up by people wanting to discuss topics from the TV show. More recently, a special Python supplement in the Linux Journal magazine featured photos of Guido garbed in an obligatory "nice red uniform."
There's still an occasional post from fans of the show on Python's news list. For instance, one poster innocently offered to swap Monty Python scripts with other fans. Had he known the nature of the forum, he might have at least mentioned whether they ran under DOS or Unix.
To help manage Python's growth, organizations aimed at supporting Python developers have taken shape over the years: among them, Python Software Activity (PSA) was formed to help facilitate Python conferences and web sites, and the Python Consortium was formed by organizations interested in helping to foster Python's growth. Although the future of the PSA is unclear as I write these words, it has helped to support Python through the early years.
Today, Guido and a handful of other key Python developers, are employed by a company named Digital Creations to do Python development on a full-time basis. Digital Creations, based in Virginia, is also home to the Python-based Zope web application toolkit (see http://www.zope.org). However, the Python language is owned and managed by an independent body, and remains a true open source, community-driven system.
Other companies have Python efforts underway as well. For instance, ActiveState and PythonWare develop Python tools, O'Reilly (the publisher of this book) and a company named Foretech both organize annual Python conferences, and O'Reilly manages a supplemental Python web site (see the O'Reilly Network's Python DevCenter at http://www.oreillynet.com/python). The O'Reilly Python Conference is held as part of the annual Open Source Software Convention. Although the world of professional organizations and companies changes more frequently than do published books, it seems certain that the Python language will continue to meet the needs of its user community.
Part I: System Interfaces
Parallel System Tools
Larger System Examples I
Larger System Examples II
Part II: GUI Programming
Graphical User Interfaces
A Tkinter Tour, Part 1
A Tkinter Tour, Part 2
Larger GUI Examples
Part III: Internet Scripting
Larger Web Site Examples I
Larger Web Site Examples II
Advanced Internet Topics
Part IV: Assorted Topics
Databases and Persistence
Text and Language
Part V: Integration
VI: The End
Conclusion Python and the Development Cycle