Python: What Is It and Why Is It so Popular?

What is Python?

Python is a general-purpose programming language. If you see any survey on popular programming languages over the last few years, Python always comes on top of the demand chart each year.

People who hate programming are tempted to change their minds by the simplicity of Python. Most of the job listings have Python somewhere as part of the job description. Let us see what makes Python so special in this decade and future. Candidates and companies upskill or reskill in Python irrespective of their qualifications, roles, and experience. Needless to say, Python is very easy to learn.

Cloud Academy offers a Python for Beginners Learning Path that provides an ideal entry point for people wanting to learn how to program with the Python scripting language. The learning path includes courses, exams, hands-on labs, and lab challenges that give you the knowledge and real-world experience you need.

Cloud Academy Python for Beginners

What is a programming language?

Let us spend a few minutes on understanding what is a programming language. If you have a programming background, this section is going to be a quick recap for you. Computers have built-in powerful components such as CPUs, memory, etc. CPUs can perform millions of instructions per second. How can we use computation and storage capability for our own benefit?

For example, I want to process payroll data for thousands of employees to display hundreds of products on an eCommerce website. Programming language helps us give instructions to computers to perform some activities. You might have heard about Java, Python, C, C++, PHP, COBOL, .NET, BASIC as they are examples of high-level programming languages.

We all know that computers can understand only electronic signals. There are only two possible things computers know: Presence of a signal(one) and the absence of a signal(zero). Computers use machine code (Contains zeros and ones) for processing purposes. Now how do we give instructions to computers when they don’t understand English, Spanish, or French.

Software professionals came up with the idea of high-level languages using which we can give instructions to CPUs to perform some activity. High-level languages are built with simple keywords from plain English and convey special instructions to CPUs for each keyword. Therefore, we write a set of statements in any high-level language to perform some computational activity.

This set of statements(code) is called a program. In the software field, this activity is known as coding or programming. With that background information, we will see one more basic concept.

Compiler vs interpreter

Software tools are available to convert high-level language code into machine code. Now we will explore two tools that convert high-level language code into machine code.

The compiler converts your entire code into machine code and stores it as an executable format file. In the Windows operating system, the popular format is known as .exe format. Windows OS will use this executable file to launch the program whenever we double-click the executable file. Java, C, and C++ are compiler-based programming languages.

Python is an interpreted high-level language. Interpreter translates one line of code at a time into machine code then executes it before converting the next line of source code. Perl, PHP, and Ruby are some more examples of interpreter based languages. Python interpreters are available in major operating systems.

Let us see a small Python program. We can call it hello.py where it contains only one line.

print(“hello”)

This is the code requires to print “hello” in screen. In other languages, you need to write at least three or four lines to do the same work.

Python is globally well supported and adopted by the tech community

Some languages are designed to solve specific sets of problems. For example, Structured Query language (SQL) is meant for working with databases. LISP favored Artificial Intelligence related research and FORTRAN was developed for scientific and engineering applications.

Python is a general-purpose language. You could use Python in different domains such as the data science field, web development, application development, game development, information security field, system administration, image processing, multimedia, IoT, and machine learning.

Python key features

If you want to know whether Python has advanced features of a typical high-level language. Yes, it does. Python supports important language features: dynamic typing, late binding, garbage collection, exception handling and more than 200,000 packages with a wide range of functionality. Python is very stable and has been here for three decades.

Python also supports different programming approaches. For example, Python supports structured programming, object-oriented programming, functional programming, and aspect-oriented programming.

Guido van Rossum released Python in 1991. The name Python came from the British comedy group Monty Python. Python maintains two releases of Python namely Python 2.x and Python 3.x. Python 2.x is officially being discontinued from 01 Jan 2020. Python 3.8 is the latest version.

Python is free and has strong support from the python global community. A non-profit organization, the Python Software Foundation, manages and directs resources for Python. Stackoverflow developer survey results say that Python is the most popular and wanted general-purpose language.

Most popular technologiesMost wanted languages

Source: Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Survey

Why is Python so popular?

Now I am going to share more details on why Python is popular among job seekers.

Software related services provide employment to millions of people across the globe. Candidates are recruited for different roles in software development. Here below I have listed some of the roles from the software industry where Python skills are important.

Python developer/engineer: As a Python developer, you will get the opportunity to work in different jobs. You will be working on the design and development of front end and back end components. You can work on website development with exposure to Django framework or flask framework. Exposure to Databases such as MySQL, MongoDB is desirable with SQL knowledge.

Python automation tester: Software testers can use Selenium with Python and pytest for testing Automation.

System administrator: In operations, Python is used heavily as a scripting language. Python can be used to automate DevOps and routine day to day activities. In the AWS cloud environment, Boto is used as Amazon Python SDK. Boto is used to create, configure and manage AWS services such as EC2, Identity management, S3, SES, SQS, AWSKMS, etc. Open stack cloud is written in Python.

Python for managers/business people: Non-technology people can learn beginner level python to organize and analyze huge amounts of data using the Panda data analysis library. This will help them to make meaningful data-driven decisions.

Researchers: Those who belong to the research community can use python module NumPy for scientific computing. More than that exploration of statistical learning can be performed using the scikit-learn library.

Cybersecurity analyst/security consultant: Python can be used to write penetration testing scripts, information gathering and automating purposes. For those of you who are familiar with Kali Linux, many scripts are written in Python.

Data science engineer: Python is a known data science packages. scikit-learn and matplotlib are some of the packages that are useful in data science. Python also supports various big data tools as well. Artificial intelligence is predicted as the future of technology. Python is the go-to language for career choice in data science.

Internet of things(IoT) developer: Python is emerging as a language choice of developers.

2019 IoT developer survey by Eclipse IoT working group lists Python, C, and Java as preferred languages in IoT environments.

Source: 2019 IoT developer survey by Eclipse IoT working group

Python is also listed on the PopularitY of Programming Language (PYPL) index as a popular programming language.

Python ranking

Source: PopularitY of Programming Language (PYPL) 

If you get a chance to go through Python openings in any of the job sites, you will find more roles where Python knowledge is a must.

Python is widely used in different application domains

Python is used in many application domains. Here is a list of a few.

Web and internet development

Python offers many choices for web development:

  • Frameworks such as Django and Pyramid.
  • Micro-frameworks such as Flask and Bottle.
  • Advanced content management systems such as Plone and django CMS.

Python’s standard library supports many internet protocols:

  • HTML, XML, and JSON
  • Email processing.
  • Support for FTP, IMAP, and other internet protocols.
  • Easy-to-use socket interface.

Scientific and numeric

Python is widely used in scientific and numeric computing.

Education

Python is a superb language for teaching programming, both at the introductory level and in more advanced courses. Schools and colleges are started to offer Python as a beginner level course for programming. So there are many openings in teaching as well.

Desktop GUIs

The Tk GUI library is included with most binary distributions of Python.

Software development (DevOps)

Python is often used as a support language for software developers to build control and management, testing, and in many other ways.

Business Applications

Python is also used to build ERP and e-commerce systems:

As per TIOBE Index for December 2019, Python is placed in one of the top three languages to build new systems.

Python rate of adoption and usage is growing fast across industries including manufacturing, academia, electronics, IoT, finance, energy, tech, and government.

Before I conclude, I consider Python the best bet to learn to advance your career and future. What about you? I will meet you in another post to explain the steps involved in installing Python and writing simple code in Python.

References

Applications for Python ( https://www.python.org/about/apps/ )

Vijayakumar Athithan

Written by

Vijayakumar Athithan

Vijay is an independent technical consultant in the network security R&D domain. He teaches classes on various subjects especially on programming, Linux, cloud, and network security in the capacity of guest faculty at BITS Pilani (India). Prior to that, he gained a decade of experience in different roles in reputed IT service companies across the globe. He has earned the following certifications: SCJP, SCBCD, PMP, ITIL, Exin-Cloud, and CEH.


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