I’ve started this introduction with a few quotes to set the tone for the book, which is rather
informal. In the hope of making it an easy read, I’ve tried to approach the topic of Python pro-
gramming with a healthy dose of humor, and true to the traditions of the Python community,
much of this humor is related to Monty Python sketches. As a consequence, some of my exam-
ples may seem a bit silly; I hope you will bear with me. (And, yes, the name Python is derived
from Monty Python, not from snakes belonging to the family Pythonidae.)
In this introduction, I give you a quick look at what Python is, why you should use it, who
uses it, who this book’s intended audience is, and how the book is organized.
So, what is Python, and why should you use it? To quote an official blurb (available from
http://python.org/doc/essays/blurb.html), it is “an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level
programming language with dynamic semantics.” Many of these terms will become clear as
you read this book, but the gist is that Python is a programming language that knows how to
stay out of your way when you write your programs. It enables you to implement the function-
ality you want without any hassle, and lets you write programs that are clear and readable
(much more so than programs in most other currently popular programming languages).
Even though Python might not be as fast as compiled languages such as C or C++, what you
save in programming time will probably be worth using it, and in most programs, the speed dif-
ference won’t be noticeable anyway. If you are a C programmer, you can easily implement the
critical parts of your program in C at a later date, and have them interoperate with the Python
parts. If you haven’t done any programming before (and perhaps are a bit confused by my ref-
erences to C and C++), Python’s combination of simplicity and power makes it an ideal choice
as a place to start.