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Most hackers aren't these days, but somehow our culture seems to have retained a pretty accurate folk memory of how nasty those old-style fixed-field languages were.
Indeed, the term “free format”, used back then to describe the newer style of token-oriented syntax in Pascal and C, has almost been forgotten; languages have been designed that way for decades now. It's hard to blame anyone, on seeing this Python feature, for initially reacting as though they had unexpectedly stepped in a steaming pile of dinosaur dung. I skimmed through the rest of the language description without much interest.
It has largely replaced shell as the scripting language of choice for system administrators, thanks partly to its comprehensive set of UNIX library and system calls, and partly to the huge collection of Perl modules built by a very active Perl community.
The language is commonly estimated to be the CGI language behind about 85% of the “live” content on the Net.
I'd found it quite powerful, even if the syntax and some other aspects of the language seemed rather ad hoc and prone to bite one if not used with care.
It seemed to me that Python would have quite a hill to climb as yet another scripting language, so as I read, I looked first for what seemed to set it apart from Perl.
At that time, I had used Perl for a number of small projects.I have also written implementations of several odd general-purpose languages on my Retrocomputing Museum page, I had already heard just enough about Python to know that it is what is nowadays called a “scripting language”, an interpretive language with its own built-in memory management and good facilities for calling and cooperating with other programs.My most recently completed project, as I write this, is a special-purpose language called SNG for manipulating PNG (Portable Network Graphics) images.Interested readers can surf to the SNG home page at