Python has gained a lot of attention lately because it is a powerful mixture of different programming paradigms and styles. For example, it is one of the very few interpreted object-oriented programming languages (Perl being another example, but only relatively late in its existence). Python fans say it is especially easy to learn. Python was written and designed almost entirely by Guido van Rossum, who chose the name because he wrote the interpreter while watching reruns of the British TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The language is introduced in Learning Python and covered in detail in Programming Python (both published by O’Reilly).

As nice and useful as Perl is, it has one disadvantage—or at least many people think so—namely, that you can write the same code in many different ways. This has given Perl the reputation that it’s easy to write code in Perl, but hard to read it. (The point is that another programmer might do things differently from you, and you might therefore not be used to reading that style.) This means that Perl might not be the right choice for developing code that later must be maintained for years to come.

If you normally develop software in C, C++, or Java, and from time to time you want to do some scripting, you might find that Perl’s syntax is too different from what you are normally used to—for example, you need to type a dollar in front of a variable:

foreach $user ...

Before we look into a bit more detail at what Python is, let us suggest that ...

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