Some Personal History with Python

You can read more of my story in:


IronPython in Action was published on the 7th April 2009 and we sold a little over 7000 copies. 

Royalties for last quarter amounted to $25.

It took me two years to write thirteen chapters and a couple of appendices, and took Christian Muirhead about the same to write two chapters and an appendix. Jonathan Hartley did the diagrams and illustrations and the worst part was compiling the index.

It took so long because IronPython was still in alpha (!) when we started and it changed several times (including a Silverlight version being released) whilst writing!

After leaving Resolver Systems in 2010 I spent a year contracting on Line of Business apps that ran in Silverlight (Django on the server): Python code running in the browser on the client side. It was glorious.

We even had functional tests on unittest built in to the app.

Work on mock accelerated massively once IronPython in Action was complete. MagickMock was born not long afterwards.

I was also helping maintain the python.org website and adding test discovery to unittest at the time, and speaking at every conference I could find.

It felt like the glory days of the Python community. It's almost time for PyCon (online) and I'm nostalgic once again. 

My first PyCon, the second Dallas PyCon and my first time in the US, there were about 600 attendees. You could almost know everyone.

I shaved my beard to enter Dallas and wore my hair in a pony tail. All I knew was they didn't like hippies there. It was the nicest greeting at a US airport I've ever had.

I went on a road trip with Andrzej Krzywda afterwards trying to find mountains. We found the Ouchita mountains in Oaklahoma and drove back through Arkansas to visit friends of mine in Houston. Along the peaks of the mountains, which are hills really, we found a view called Dead Man's Vista and we I laughed together at Microsoft.

Not long after this the web explosion happened and Django happened, google adopted Python as an official language and the community started to explode and grow.

That was even before Python became huge as a teaching language and before Python exploded in data science too.

I once paired with Jacob Kaplan Moss at a PyCon sprint and fixed some issue by adding a metaclass to the Django codebase. Which he never committed and found a better way.

That's the closest I've come to deploying a metaclass I think, although I've removed a few in my time.

I knew Python had "made it" as a language when one bag stuffing pre-PyCon I met someone who didn't want to be there. He'd been sent by work. Before that Python was obscure, and only people who really loved it went to PyCon. Which I'm convinced is the secret of Python's success. 

It was built by passion not by money. For the sheer love and the joy of building something beautiful with other people.

I was a Mac user then and had a running joke with Jonathan Hartley about Linux and projectors. 

One time he plugged his laptop into the projector prior to his PyCon talk (Testing is a Silver Bullet), tried to fix the x-config from the terminal and rendered his laptop unusable.  He did the presentation on mine. The next year Mark Shuttleworth did a keynote talk at PyCon and running some bleeding edge version of Ubuntu also couldn't plug it into the projector system. Hilarity on my part.

The biggest conference I ever spoke at was a Microsoft one in Brighton where they demoed Silverlight and I demoed IronPython on Silverlight. They didn't tell me I would be on main stage in front of a few thousand Microsoft devs. I was used to talking to a few hundred at a time!

I had a slide deck built from S5 with reStructured Text markup and a Far Side slide mocking static typing. Which went down a bomb to an audience of C# devs. I still managed, by coincidence, to demo almost the same features of Silverlight as Microsoft bigwig Scott Hanselman who did the keynote.

It was an "interesting experience", evangelising Python and dynamic languages in "the heart of the beast" as it were. Microsoft went on to step up their involvement with Python and sincere Open Source commitments which they've maintained since.

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