Interviewed by Hansen Hsu on 2018-03-29 in Mountain View, CA X8483.2018
© Computer History Museum
Guido van Rossum first moved to the US in 1994 as a temporary guest of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland, but moved to the US permanently in 1995 to work at Robert Kahn’s Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) in Reston, Virginia, which had begun using Python, to work on the KNOWBOT project, while also leading a group (which he called “PythonLabs”) developing Python and its community on the side. For this project Van Rossum wrote a DARPA grant proposal entitled “Computer Programming for Everybody.” It was at CNRI that Van Rossum became concerned for Python’s continued future as open source, as CNRI leadership indicated unhappiness with Python’s open source MIT license, as it was paying Van Rossum’s group to develop Python but had no ownership of it. The situation was ultimately resolved, but to head off any possible future threat, Van Rossum would create the Python Software Foundation (PSF) to be the owner of the Python intellectual property. PSF would ultimately become the organizer of the PyCon conference. Van Rossum and the PythonLabs group left CNRI to join the startup BeOpen in 2000, which unfortunately folded. Van Rossum with PythonLabs then moved on to Digital Creations which became Zope.com, whose Python-based web framework Zope was popular in the early 2000s. Van Rossum left Zope and PythonLabs for the security company, Elemental Security, from 2003-2005. From 2005 to 2012, Van Rossum worked at Google, creating the Mondrian code review web application and later working on Google App Engine. Since 2013 Van Rossum has been at Dropbox, working on various projects including mypy, a static type analyzer which adds static type checking to Python.
Guido van Rossum also discusses how Python has changed over time, key early adopters and users of Python, how Python became a popular web programming language, its uses in machine learning and scientific programming, and its limited support for functional programming.
* Note: Transcripts represent what was said in the interview. However, to enhance meaning or add clarification, interviewees have the opportunity to modify this text afterward. This may result in discrepancies between the transcript and the video. Please refer to the transcript for further information - http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102738761
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Lot number: X8483.2018
Catalog number: 102738762