Python

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any real hard core programming or coding. I learned FORTRAN (with punch cards) in university and then I had a long and useful dalliance with BASIC (sort of FORTRAN for dummies.)

BASIC was the common language of time sharing – on teletype terminals with paper tape input. Later on BASIC was the way to communicate with the earliest 8 bit microcomputers (you didn’t call them Personal Computers until later.)

When it was my pleasure to teach a bunch of Grade 8 students to program we used BASIC – since that is what their classroom’s Commodore PET used back then.

Both FORTRAN and BASIC were what you would call “logic oriented” programs. Logic and formulas were the key thing. and you got that right and then thought about inputting some data to manipulate and output the answer.

Well times have changed and now that my grandson has asked about programming (or coding as they say today,) a creaky old dinosaur like BASIC would not be the choice of language to learn. What then?

Well it looks as if a language called Python might be the way to go. I have had a brief look at it and it shares a couple of desirable characteristics for an oldster like me.

  1. It is an interpreted language like BASIC. That is it runs its programs one line at a time, and errors are easy to debug.
  2. It is quite readable and uses a lot of the BASIC type symbols.

However unlike BASIC Python is one of the new “object oriented” languages. Instead of treating data as an afterthought to the logic, an object oriented program starts with the data first, puts it front and center and packages the logic with the data. Each combination of data and logic forms an object. The result is that a program that might have 60 lines in BASIC will have maybe 10 in Python – a dramatic improvement in productivity.

It is a different way of thinking though and I’ll need to put in some time if I want to try it out. There are some online courses and books on Python so I’ll see what I can do.

That said, Python looks like a type of programming language a kid could learn.

If you were wondering the creator of Python did not name it after a boa constrictor – the inspiration for this particular language is Monty Python. A programmer with a sense of humor – who woulda thunk it?

 

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