2008 – Year of the Python (for me anyway)

January 12th, 2008 | Categories: programming, python | Tags:

Over the years I have programmed in a reasonable number of languages but the ones I am actually using right now are Fortran, C++, Mathematica, Matlab and Perl. The one I would choose would depend on what I needed to accomplish, maybe Fotran for high speed numerics, Matlab for quick numerical algorithm development or Perl for sysadmin work and for the most part this tool-set serves my purposes well.

Just recently, however, I have been getting itchy feet and have been wanting to learn another programming language as it is a process I quite enjoy and last time I did it (with Perl) it turned out to be pretty useful. The question, of course, is which one to choose? I want a language that is going to be fun to use (to keep up my interest) and useful in my day job (so I can justify the time spent).

For me, one language stuck out more than all of the others – Python. I have always been dimly aware of it but until recently you could summarize my knowledge of it as follows

  • It’s free
  • It’s not a traditional compiled language (like C or Fortran) – it uses bytecodes and a virtual machine like Java
  • It’s the one where white space matters
  • Perl and Python people argue a lot

More recently, however, I have discovered a few more things about it piqued my interest.

  • The open source CAS system – SAGE – is implemented in Python
  • There are mature python libraries for doing numerical computing – numpy and scipy
  • There is a wonderful looking matlab-like plotting library for it – matplotlib
  • There are a lot of scientific applications developed using it
  • I can install it on my mobile phone
  • There is a number-theoretic (another emerging interest I have) library for it – NZMATH

So python it is then. Although there are a lot of great looking python tutorials on the web, I prefer to do my learning from a book, I am showing my age I guess. When I was learning Perl I used the O’Reilly book, learning perl, and would recommend it to any new Perl learners without hesitation. Since they have served me so well in the past, I turned to O’Reilley again and have just bought Learning Python (below) from Amazon. If you would like to join me on my Python journey (and support this site) then click on the image below and buy a copy.

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