Childhood & Early Life
Guido van Rossum was born on January 31, 1956, in Haarlem, the Netherlands. He was the eldest child of his parents. He has a younger brother named Just van Rossum. He also has a younger sister. His father was an architect, and his mother trained as a schoolteacher but left her job after marriage. His parents belonged to the left-leaning ‘Pacifist’ and ‘Labor’ parties. The "van" in Guido’s name, according to Dutch naming conventions, is capitalized when the person is called by the surname only and not when one uses his full name. This fact also finds mention in Guido’s home page.
He received an electronics kit, probably on his tenth birthday, and eventually became an electronics hobbyist while in high school. He was good at designing circuits rather than at soldering and gradually started designing more complicated digital circuits, which became his main hobby. He also had an interest in building mechanical models.
He attended the ‘University of Amsterdam,’ from where he obtained a master's degree in mathematics and computer science in 1982.
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Guido worked with various research institutes, both in his homeland and in the US. These included the ‘Corporation for National Research Initiatives’ (CNRI), the ‘US National Institute of Standards and Technology’ (NIST) and the ‘Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica’ (CWI) in the Netherlands.
During his tenure at the ‘CWI,’ in 1986, he wrote and contributed a glob() routine to ‘BSD Unix.’ In the mid-1980s, while at the ‘CWI,’ he worked for several years on the ‘ABC’ system that was developed by Leo Geurts, Steven Pemberton, and Lambert Meertens. He once talked about the influence of the project on him and the knowledge he had gained by being associated with it. He also expressed his gratitude toward the people who worked on the project. ‘ABC’ had a major influence on the design of ‘Python,’ which was later developed by Guido.
He placed a funding proposal named ‘Computer Programming for Everybody’ before the ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’ (DARPA) in 1999, elucidating his objectives for the ‘Python’ programming language.
He joined ‘Zope Corporation’ in 2000 and worked there till 2003. Thereafter, he began serving ‘Elemental Security,’ where he worked on a custom programming language. He was offered a job by the famous American multinational technology company ‘Google’ in 2005. He worked there till December 2012.
His tenure at ‘Google’ saw him spending half his time creating the interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language ‘Python.’ The concept of creating some sort of a descendant of ‘ABC’ that would be of interest to the ‘Unix/C’ hackers, had struck him decades earlier, when he was looking for a "'hobby' programming project that would keep him busy during the Christmas week in December 1989, while his office remained closed.
Guido said that he had derived the name "Python" from the British sketch-comedy series ‘Monty Python's Flying Circus,’ of which he is a big fan. He mentioned that while choosing the name, he was in a “slightly irreverent mood.” While ‘ABC’ was quite influential in designing ‘Python,’ Guido mentioned that ‘ABC’ was inspired by ‘SETL.’ He said that one of the developers of ‘ABC,’ Meertens, had a year’s tenure with the ‘SETL’ group at ‘New York University’ (NYU) before the final design of ‘ABC’ was produced.
The phrase “Benevolent Dictator for Life” (BDFL) originated with reference to him in 1995. He received the “BDFL” title for the ‘Python’ programming language, which meant that he had the final say in any kind of disputes or arguments within the ‘Python’ community. He later stepped down as the “BDFL,” or the leader of the ‘Python’ community, on July 12, 2018.
While with ‘Google,’ he also created the web-based code review system named ‘Mondrian.’ Used within ‘Google,’ the software was written in ‘Python’ and was named by Guido after noted Dutch painter and theoretician Piet Mondriaan.
Guido joined ‘Dropbox,’ an American cloud file storage company, in January 2013.
His work in computer programming, including the development of ‘Python,’ has earned him several honors and accolades over the years. The ‘Free Software Foundation’ (FSF) awarded him with the 2001 ‘Award for the Advancement of Free Software’ for his work on ‘Python.’ He received the award during the ‘FOSDEM’ conference held in Brussels in 2002. He was also given the ‘NLUUG Award’ in May 2003 and was recognized by the ‘Association for Computing Machinery’ as a ‘Distinguished Engineer’ in 2006. He became a ‘Fellow of the Computer History Museum’ in 2018.
He has also come up with some ‘Python’-related books. These include ‘Internet Programming with Python’ (1996), which he co-authored with Aaron Watters and James C Ahlstrom; ‘An Introduction to Python’ (2003); and ‘The Python Language Reference Manual’ (2003).