About the talk
"Python 1994" by: Paul Everitt
“Come for the language, stay for the community.” The Python community started in 1994 at a NIST workshop in Maryland. What was the world of Python like in its first years? Did we have any clue whatsoever? A joke-focused tour of early Python, heavy on question-and-answer.
Recorded at the 2021 Python Web Conference (https://2021.pythonwebconf.com)
Paul is a PyCharm and WebStorm Developer Advocate at JetBrains. Before that, Paul was a co-founder of Zope Corporation, taking the first open source application server through $14M of funding. Paul has bootstrapped both the Python Software Foundation and the Plone Foundation. Prior to that, Paul was an officer in the US Navy, starting www.navy.mil in 1993.View the profile
Cast your mind back. Its November 1994 in. I can't even go once live without a joke. I used to give this a lot. I used to just talk and I would say, what were you doing in 1994? And when the median response became waiting to be conceived, I decided to stop asking that question. So it's 1994. There's a Clinton in the White House. This was a lot funnier, like 5 years ago. Number one movie 1994. Tom Cruise, you can catch the Easter egg in there and you can order books and this is the
Glorious beauty of HTML layouts before tables arrived. And there's also the how you would order that book involved. Something else happened in 1990 for the python Community started and that'll be the topically. Starting point of this conversation of this presentation. And I do want it to be a format as a conversation, which is kind of weird because I'm staring at my wall and talkin to some inanimate devices. I'm looking down at slack and I can look at your comments and rip
on them cuz I'll be honest part of my job is to entertain you but part of your job. Let's see if we can make this into a unique presentation by coming up. With some ideas. You'll have to just ask questions. You can bring up things. You think are fun to talk about a little bit about me. I like to joke. I'm the luckiest duck of all the lucky duckies. I get to be a jetbrains Advocate. I should pay them a salary. Don't tell them, it's cetera. It's a great job working on. Pie Carmen, webstorm this conversation. I've been in the room
when some things happen including the 1994 topic of this. I was a bootstrapper with Greg Stein of the Python software Foundation. I was involved with some things that start with z and peas. And in 1993. I did a website ww.w. Mel. This is the first evidence of me on the internet. The Google can find This is so hilarious. Asking a tech support question. And getting possibly the top venture capitalist in the world Tech venture capitalist in the world to reply his path and mine took different directions after this interaction. What was going on before
1990 for that kind of sets the scene for this. There's a great article. That was written. I think maybe like 2 years ago year-and-a-half ago. I'm at Excelsior get two years ago and ZDNet and Nick the journalist did a really I thought he did a really good framing of what happened at the beginning. Captured all the key points about Guido's work with ABC in amoeba and the downtime when he conceived of doing another programming language and what kind of got it off the ground.
This is The Melia. Hopefully Calvin, you're not going to criticize me on the pronunciation of that The Melia that we were in. At the time there was this class of things called scripting languages and they were kind of viewed as toys and now you don't do anything legitimate scripting language. Maybe you would do a prototype and the grown-ups will come back later and converted to C, or C plus plus. But they were starting to be something involved with the web even before when I got involved. And so that is actually my origin story for
Python. And when I was doing maybe got mail and there was this thing before CGI, it was the same idea of the standard out standard in for can a process and stuff like that and I wanted to do a little bit of dynamic stuff and I couldn't have done what people were doing at the time. I could have done it and see. Probably not going to happen cuz it don't even Bash. Yeah, not too much. But Pearl was a scripting language in. That was what everybody seem to be using so I can go into the bookstore in the computer book
section. I mean, it was just a shelf. You not really small and getting there was a pearl book in my local bookstore in 5 minutes, this girl, but I can't take her off and I had this memory is going like Oh, hell no, putting it back on the shelf. And there was this downloadable PostScript file, for this scripting language called python. Don't even know how my stomach and damned if that tutorial wasn't like written for Paul Everett's brain specifically, it just fit my brain. So
well, I printed it out. I got a hilarious story for later about where I was when I went through that tutorial that actually kind of embarrassing but I love Tanya, this is another funny story. The the python book on here is I believe what's considered the first python book? Aaron did most of the writing on it and they needed a logo and we actually had a graphics artist and digital creations at the time. I remember going over to Nancy's saying, hey, can you do this book? Logo, can you do a cover art for this book? And
Nancy said, what should be on it being an engineer and programmer for Creative? Is this actually pisses what you got? And I said, I don't know a snake and sunglasses because of Cleo wears glasses and a can of spam and there you go. For the first I thought about python had a mailing list at the time and it's actually kind of funny in 1993 when you wanted a list your website. You actually email Tim berners-lee. Which is pretty hilarious and that's what I do when I listed Navy. Milk. And when you wanted to
join the python Community ain't got on the mail. Unless you actually emailed me though. He actually edited the sca laces file and we gave this talk is a keynote panel at Pike on like four years ago. And Guido said he knew that she had Advanced to actually having a community when you get a sign that shock to some this is actually the very first email. In the mailing list like the origin of the Python Community writ, large, welcome to the mailing list. And this is a funny follow-up. It's
all kind of funny because he also talks about explaining people in the top how to do quotes. But then at the bottom, it says, someday, I'll put in a Visa. Parser guess, what was in Python, 3.94 Peg. Parser. So, Hope Springs Eternal. This is for is great when live. So I'll do it, pretend life, raise your hand. If you know what you use EPDM pots, pans for that. You can go figure it out for yourself. I won't spoil it. But this is like they stuck past mailing list to newsgroups and get it as a source of a Funny Story, playing a python was the name of the
news group and it was really a mirror to the mailing list. Despite the cop, despite the laying people looked at Python and thought it was a Monty Python fan group Guido's, like half of messages in the beginning were about Monty Python. Or anyone that knows me or anything about my history. This is hilarious. My very first email to the mailing list and I doing all this. Oh crap and zodd crap. It's kind of hilarious here. The meme that is going on through the years was resolved recently and look at that. June 94
is the origin of the what if we got hit by a bus named by Michael McClay whose name will come up. Later is a real hero and getting this all going. So this is actually a fun. You want to go Google for this in the mailing list archives and read the follow-up on this. It's actually kind of forward looking for the python Community before there was perhaps, even a python commit, her to be thinking about these kinds of things. Another funny tidbit. Very early on Guido expressed his
lack of enthusiasm about lambdas. And I think I actually sold last month, but he's actually considering maybe some alternative send text to make land as a little bit more that useful. Then. Python in 1990 for the thing happened to that is a topic of this. Michael and Guido organize a workshop. Michael McClay working at Nest, Barry and I were armed with Michael Kennedy. We do python 90-94 on Michaels podcast. I got a link to it later in the in this presentation and the the fact that it was at Nest wound up being one of
those Domino's in the whole reason. We're here has a sequence of Dominos that you can easily imagine removing one of those Domino's and we're not here and so Michael organize the workshop and we joked about it when I see people, what are we going to do with all that room? So it was a missed office, little conference room in Gaithersburg, Maryland, no, windows, steel chairs. Just really Swank. Here's a list of some of the things that we had on the agenda for the first python Workshop. Spam one as it was them.
Don't these are fun to me in retrospect cuz it's like number 1, number 3. Number 8 was kind of interesting. This is something I've added to this presentation because of where python is now python in the third. Third of pythonic. I could have gone into decline with the arrival of data science. I gave it a second life and let's face it data science. Most of it isn't in Python it since he's running over on the GPU and python provides a little glue language, which was raised on. That wasn't a very beginning
to be a glue language, do things and see and so from the very beginning there needed to be a more organized story for extensions, which also happens to be a Hot Hot Topic right now because of some interpreters. They're trying to clean up the Capi or make a new ccapi and do things without breaking them pie and it's a very vigorous discussion and then the last one's kind of funny to me because Michael and I went off on the side of the community was 20 people bag, and we're riding bylaws. How dumb is that? These are some
pictures from the conference. Top one is Rodger, Massey talkin Obito with Barry Michael McClay. Then is a picture of b r e, a joke. This is what berry looks like on the inside. Then Jim Fulton. And then me before I got married, and learned you can't spend more than $5 on a haircut. What was it? Like at this November 1994? Workshop in Joseph Stalin's. Favorite architecture. Building in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In that article. I mentioned at the beginning. This is the lead end of the article. I said, it's a great article, but very first sentence gets into gross
exaggeration. I'm not against Lex group of programmers, a little bit about something that really is a vivid memory of his that you then people viewed python as something that was a super advantage to what they were doing. They're coming out of that Workshop. Some things then started to happen and I'll refer to it as the first third of python. As something as it started to happen. That came from that first Workshop. My goodness, did we get a lot of these emails over and over? And
I can't be bothered to look at The Archives. So could you please preach you? My food for me and explain how you stack up against Berlin tickle, but still some of these boys are kind of fun to look at. I will pause for a moment. Let you look at some of these points and say, do you think that they're still issues? You know, if you watch Russell Keith Magee's Black Swan Kino from a couple years ago. Can you spot any of the things that he thought about ordering in there? So then there was a second Workshop. We want to pay me to workshops in
1995, both hosted by Jim Fulton. This was in a window. Stalin government office, building in Menlo Park, California, steel chairs again. Thanks, Jim. This one was kind of fun for a couple of reasons. One of the point below. Wow. We actually might fill up a 20-person room this time, but I got some memories from this, but I think are true or true enough for me. This was the first time we heard of java. Somebody gave a presentation about Sons set top programming language. That
didn't have the name Jabba yet. I remember a presentation from the standard for Digital Library people that wound up being later Google cuz the crawler in Google was written in Python. Do some interesting things going on in that Workshop. And then don't understand the python software Foundation. Was launched. A successful python python software activity was launched. This would be a good episode just on its own to talk about what we thought we were doing. What problem we were trying to solve how we went about, how we felons and kind of the classic mistakes of
consortium's rather than communities and things like that. Please send do not sending cash. That's funny. The way the community was organized a little bit in those years was special interest groups. I think that kind of mimics, maybe the iatf or something like that model. And I have the pleasure of forming, the very first leg, that was unsuccessful, and it's this one, the catalog Sig that Andrew couch. We actually took over later if you want to think about what it was supposed to beep ipi's, what it was
supposed to be and it was dismal. I should just stick to making coffee for the smart people. Then I missed something. I added to this presentation because of everything that's going on in Python. Now with data science and back, then it was numeric and presentations at spam-free. Python is a blue language, right? Glowing together stuff written in other languages, but the way that you have that interface, the other languages, is it standardized? Is there a productive visit safe, all those other things? And so, and Jim Fulton, early
hero of the world of python I think is considered the champion of formalizing, the Capi at the time. Maybe we can get him back to help pitch in on the new Capi that's crumbling around down. And when you look at it, damn, if python 1.3 bullet number two, in the release notes, which are in this. Help me system. That was popular back. Then wasn't the number two in Python 1.3 was Jim Capi. Jim went on to do some other work on extension class and, and the new
style logic. here is the agenda for the third python Workshop. And this is where things get to be a little more interesting just to be bigger. It's at USGS in Reston and it's in their kind of Amphitheater. I don't know if I was to guess maybe a hundred people, but multiple tracks of things, multiple group, things of interest, with people leading those groupings. I was doing the web stuff. And I will, I will abused the privilege of talking and give another personal story. I was doing the seat base like CGI. I
was doing a tutorial on CJ and in the audience was Greg Stine and we just released a this before gym start working with us. We just released at something that ran in Apache, and used. Korba using a system called ilu from Xerox. Parc, a free Corbin location to talk to a long-running processes and we had this little object publisher. Think there's a tech report on w three say about it, but I'm getting a tutorial and then I go over that part a little bit want to speed up your C, giant stuff have a long-running
process. This was before Pat Sajak. And then the audience was Greg. Stine, who is a tea shop with Pierre omidyar. And they wound up adopting that and then getting bought by Microsoft. He shot got bought by Microsoft in the first Microsoft Commerce server that ship was written up. I thought it was a shop. So that was a pretty cool. Pretty cool. Thing to see the python even in this relay, probably got bought 96 or something like that. Python could be thought of that. Seriously, at that
time. A little funny following from that and the next spam. So this would rinse Panthers to spam for. I was supposed to do the CGI tutorial just before it wound up going to fonts instead for vacation and sorry. But am I going to go to Lawrence Livermore? I got to go to phones. What would you do if, you know what you would do? And Jim Fulton had, just joined us in 96 and he was obviously going to the conference and he said I'll give it to toriel, but I don't know anything about cesia. Which is like June 4th in a nutshell,
I'll just teach, I'll just load it on the flight there. So we learned it on the flight. There. Jim is totally object-oriented did a lot of work with the new small talk. I think it on the flight back. He wrote. He conceived in his head and wrote what became Bobo and object publishing and before there was rest. And so little moment of serendipity because I chose wisely to go on vacation. Now, I will expand this part a little bit because of what Barry said in the podcast with Michael.
Barry was at cnri in November 1994 as the corporation natural resource initiatives and who just made a beeline. Now, you know, three things about Reston. It's in Reston Virginia seeing her. I was a pretty distinguished place. It was, it had a big relationship with DARPA, but it was like a little is like a DARPA that wasn't in the government. And it was headed by Bob Khan who could rightfully call himself the father of the internet because he was the boss for when the two
of them started working on TCP. And Bob ran Samurai, which is basically a Consortium nonprofit kind of thing. That would get funding to go do projects. And I believe Rodger, Massey and Barry were both at cnri when they went to the first Workshop. But the key Point here is that Barry had been at Nest before and so that was how python kind of jump from Guido comes over for a workshop at Nest hooks up with Sienna, right? And wise up moving here to work at cnri in to have this group of people python Labs working there on funded projects, like
no bots, mobile code. A browser written here. Grail, a browser written in Python that uses all the beautiful Glory of TK enter. So that group was, hopefully, I won't forget the names. We do Rodger, Jeremy Ken. Leaving somebody else out Fred. And, so python got a home where it could incubate very important point in pythons. History. It also got a bit of organizing because cnri and 4-tec, which one is in the next line. Ran the ietf meeting ran, the World Wide Web conferences knew how to do
contracts and bank accounts and Consortium like things in the public interest. I will talk about perhaps a little bit later about some of the sharp edges of that, but without going to nest. For that Workshop meeting without Michael McClay and without going to cnri. We're definitely not here today. Let's wait a little bit about this thing called for tack. They were a conference organizing activity, that was used to doing things on a really big scale is. So they conversion US from spam spam. Spam to International
python conference and you see here are page for, I believe, the last International python conference in Long Beach. Before the wheels came off the bus and the first third of python ended in my butt. and you can kind of see this point about about this was different than spam one by that thing at the bottom logo. Did I do that stupid spinning thing? Maybe? The transition from spam one to IPC was an attempt to grow up to be more professional, to be more in the industry to do things like the big boys and girls would do, it didn't work. We were
still the rabble. We were still the bizarre not the cathedral and thank goodness later on the psf and Pikkon went back to volunteer organization Community focused, kind of organization. But still this was part of the first, third of python, you know, back then. These paths that we might go through now, like, six feet up doing this conference, that wasn't the way things were back. Then it wasn't as community-focused. It was more getting big names, and big companies. So then closing off. This
first third of python in my book, at least kind of coinciding with the.com bubble bursting. Things didn't work out. So well, I don't want to save your work out too. Well, things happen at seeing. All right, involving licensing and trying to milk the cow or squeeze the juice out of the lemon or however you want to do it, and it was kind of move on and being the.com era. There's gold in them. And tell the python Labs group packed up. I can do The Beverly Hillbillies right now with that would be cringy.
Packed up went West to a startup called be open. And be open was kind of cashing in on open-source. They were going to do value-add things around open-source headed by someone who had a community. I believe in XE Max or something like that. Bob weiner. That lasted six months. And unfortunately, the python last name was about to be kind of scattered it to the winds. We had just done our last or third big round of financing. And so we wound up. Having the python Labs team. Come join us. At the usual
Creations. We do work full-time on python. The other folks worked like 2 days out of five on my part. So I kind of view. Mm, as this pivot point of the first third of python. Before going on I'll try and read back a little bit through some of the messages. Yeah, python cabal. There was a little feeling of that in Wartime fossen. Does a good joke about the python secret underground cuz those Dutch people you really can't trust them. I know, right? And him some things about dial up, but you're kind of funny. So with this in mind, I
enjoy talking about this first, third of python, and I would be interested, for example Calvin, talking about when we do and now it's python 3000, Can you get me the date for python 3000 posted in here to see if it kind of lines up with this old Pivot Point thing. I hate to say it have a point for my reality when we started launching soap-free, which was unsuccessful. I would say that was okay, so it doesn't completely in my timeline, but it's kind of a similar thing. Things are in transition as we're moving from an early stage to a little
stage. If you're interested in more ripping on this very point of view, we've got Michaels podcast. The finished version is on the left and then we did a live stream with all the raw material on the right. And kind of gives a little more personal Impressions about how we felt about things and talk a little bit more about things. Like what were we, what we kind of thinking, what were we were there, things you could look back then and say, okay that led to this.
And one of the biggest points of that, Jim folds and brought this up when we did the keynote panel. Back then at least it's still true in some cases. Not every programming Community was nice and sweet and kind and python was nice and sweet and kind and established a culture of being inviting and Jim brought this up that high phone was kind and human because we do was kind of human, it kind of took on the nature of its creator. And then the initial it kind of attracted a
group that believed in those things, as the first group, which them, if they are much bigger group could see that is kind of settling in as the culture. Show me like that because really important cuz just at the time in the middle of server python when python could have peaked when web development which was really the driver of my kind of crested and people started doing web development and other things, instead of going down it have this dip and climb related, in my opinion to two things first,
as an engine of Pike, on in the psf and the dog and determination of Jessica, McKellar and play, ladies python made a strategic decision to put money behind it to change the gender and diversity equation. And from 2004, when there were, I believe 3% of the pike on talk for my women. Three years later. It was, I believe 34% and then up a little bit after that a little bit after that. So having a cold sore from the beginning. That was warm and inviting and said, hey we care about you. Came back
later to help python in my opinion. Avoid the death and go on another growth. And then I extended later today to science which data scientist don't necessarily think of themselves as programmers. And so they show up in a program or community and you can imagine some of these communities talking down to that making them feel unwanted. Instead they land in Python and find a home, find a tribe and then python something likes. Like I joke a hundred and 20% of python. People showed up yesterday for data science.
The data science influx has been tremendous. All right, onto the best words, in a presentation. This is a screenshot of Eva giving the keynote at pie Colorado, which was the last in-person time that I gave us talk. It's kind of funny. I was given the swamp and you can see it on the recording that part in the presentation, where I said, the first time we heard the name, Jabba, I didn't really mellowed dramatically. I was like, and then we heard about Java. I
swear to goodness. As soon as I said about Java, there was this Thunder play shook the whole room, she gave this presentation. I thought she ended it really well and helped me later to give the python 1994. You know, you look at these people that were involved in python in the first third of the second. Third of the current third. There will be many thirds and you think they're rock stars, or they're the heroes are there than whatever's, but they were the ones we were all sitting
in the audience at some point. And so you this point is my phone will be what you wanted to be a nice. Little people leading python will be you the future person getting up and giving her keynote will be someone sitting in the room and I thought that was a nice tie-in back to the beginning of python in that Workshop starting in these really modest humble Origins. Not, not really expecting it to become. What's considered the number one growing programming language in the world. Not considering that.
Capital One would have a 500-acre booth app icon. Never would have seen that coming. It's damn one. That was an unusual. And so I like to kind of close this on python, 1994 is fun to talk about. It's fun to learn lessons from. It's fun to project back and then project forward and see where we came from to help know where we're going. But really at the end of the day where we're going is where you're going, get involved, do the things, you love bring joy and purpose and
Buy this talk
Buy this video
Our other topics
With ConferenceCast.tv, you get access to our library of the world's best conference talks.