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Python 1994: Recollections from the First Conference

We are happy to announce PyCon 2017’s Sunday morning plenary event — the final day of this year’s main conference will feature Guido van Rossum on a panel of Python programmers who attended the first-ever Python conference back in 1994! Paul Everitt will moderate the panel as they answer questions and share their memories about that first Python conference when the programming language was still young.

At the beginning of 1994, the World Wide Web consisted of less than 1,000 sites. There was no distributed version control. No public issue trackers. Programmers communicated their ideas, issues, and patches in plain text on mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups. The small community of Python programmers were connected through both a mailing list and the comp.lang.python newsgroup, which was busy enough that several new messages were appearing each day.

An exciting announcement blazed out to subscribers of the Python mailing list in September 1994: Guido van Rossum, the Dutch researcher who had invented Python, was going to visit the United States! An impromptu Python workshop was quickly organized for the beginning of November where Python programmers could for the first time meet each other in person.

Attendees of the first Python conference, in a tiny and highly artifacted JPEG that was typical of the era

Of the small group who gathered at NIST over November 1–3, 1994, several will be on stage to share about both the triumphs and the mistakes of those early years. The panel is currently slated to include:

  • Guido van Rossum
  • Paul Everitt (moderator)
  • Barry Warsaw
  • Jim Fulton

There is one way that you in the Python community can go ahead and start helping us prepare for the panel:

We need your questions!

You can go ahead and suggest questions by tweeting them with a hashtag of #nist1994. The panel will curate your tweeted questions along with questions that they solicit elsewhere, and will have their favorites ready for the panel at PyCon.

Thanks to Paul Everitt for organizing the panel, which will aim to spur not only nostaligia for a lost era but lessons, warnings, and inspirations for future generations of Python developers!

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