Guido van Rossum Joins Microsoft
Written by Mike James   
Friday, 13 November 2020

Creator of Python, Guido van Rossum, has joined Microsoft as a Distinguished Engineer in the Developer Division. His stated aim is to make Python better. We can't wait to find out what that results in. 

A tweet from Guido van Rossum himself broke the news of his new job:

guidotweet

It is just over a year since Guido left Dropbox, where he had worked for over 6 years and, aged 63, officially retired. Prior to that he had had 7 years at Google. 

However, it is what he did while working in Amsterdam for Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), his first job that makes Guido van Rossum a programming hero - he wrote his own language. He called it Python as a tribute to Monty Python's Flying Circus, a surreal TV show conceived, written and performed by Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.

There is certainly something surreal about Python's origins. In December 1989 Van Rossum was looking for a "hobby programming project" that would keep occupied during the week between Christmas and New Year since his office would be closed! He hit upon the idea of writing an interpreter for a scripting language based on ABC, a language that he had helped to develop at CWI, that would appeal to Unix/C hackers.

Despite its humble beginnings Python has evolved in what I describe in my book, Programmer's Python: Everything is an Object as "a phenomenon of modern programming":

It is an interpreted object-oriented language that started out being simple and easy to use and has slowly collected a wide range of sophisticated features. The Python community is large and one of the most active. Python's excellent number crunching facilities have made it a number one choice for science and technology. In fact, in many cases data scientists prefer its general purpose approach to more directly data-oriented languages like R.

Although Python is open source and has a large and active community of contributors, many of the characteristics of the language and the overall direction of the project are down to  decisions made by Van Rossum. He was, until he stepped down from the position in 2018, Python's Benevolent Dictator For Life, BDFL for short. 

The question many of us will be asking is why Microsoft?

Microsoft has a fairly long association with Python, indeed it experimented with its own implementation Iron Python between 2006 and 2010. The initial release of Python Tools For Visual Studio was in 2011 and this evolved from being an extension to, since VS 2017 to being fully integrated as Python Support in Visual Studio.  

The most recent evidence of Microsoft support for Python is an extension to VS Code introduced three months ago to add fast, static type checking, autocomplete, and live type information about symbols among other features to the existing Python extension in VSCode. As reported in August Pylance, is a new language server for Python, which uses the Language Server Protocol to communicate with VS Code. Its name is a reference to Monty Python’s Lancelot, the first knight to answer the bridgekeeper’s questions in the Holy Grail.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of Microsoft support for Python is the way it can be easily accessed from Windows 10, thanks to link that goes directly to the Python distribution in the Windows store. In our report on this, Easier Python In Windows 10, we quoted Steve Dower who noted back then (June 2019)

"Microsoft has been involved with the Python community for over twelve years, and currently employ four of the key contributors to the language and primary runtime!"

Well now Microsoft also employs Python's creator and this can only serve to consolidate its involvement.  Commenting on the news a Microsoft spokesperson said yesterday:

“We’re excited to have him as part of the Developer Division. Microsoft is committed to contributing to and growing with the Python community, and Guido’s on-boarding is a reflection of that commitment.” 

 guidovanrossum

 

 

  • Mike James is the author of Programmer's Python: Everything is an Object published by I/O Press as part of the  I Programmer Library. With the subtitle "Something Completely Different" this book is for those who want to understand the deeper logic in the approach that Python 3 takes to classes and objects. 

 

Related Articles

Guido van Rossum On Python and Diversity in Open Source

First Ever Dijkstra Fellowship Shared by David Chaum and Guido van Rossum

Guido van Rossum Quits As Python BDFL 

Microsoft Improves Python Support In VSCode

Learn Python with Microsoft

Easier Python In Windows 10

Python Language Of The Year 

Python Development Trends

What Makes Python Special?

Getting Started with Python (Book Extract)

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Last Updated ( Friday, 13 November 2020 )