Python Principles

Why learn Python first?

Beginners are often uncertain about which programming language to learn first. There are dozens of languages out there.

The truth is, all the concepts you learn transfer from one language to another. The difference between languages is mostly syntactical; you may need to use slightly different names or symbols, but the core programming work is the same. Still, there are many good reasons to start with Python.

Essentially, Python makes programming easier and less painful than most languages, which is motivating and means you'll quickly be able to accomplish meaningful things.

I'll elaborate on what makes Python a good first language below.

High level of abstraction

Languages differ in their level of abstraction. A language like C is low in abstraction. This means you have to get into all the nitty-gritty details of precisely what you want the machine to do. It's easy to get lost in the details. But it offers lots of power and control.

Python is the opposite. It has a high level of abstraction. Python code reads much like English text. It is very readable and self-explanatory. You can use very few lines to say what you want done, without having to worry too much about the details. This means high productivity with less control. But beginners don't need that control, and are likely to shoot themselves in the foot with it.

So Python is good for beginners because it has a high level of abstraction -- it reads much like English -- making learning easier.

Productivity is motivating

Python lets you accomplish a lot in little time because of its high level of abstraction. This means you won't have to spend hours struggling with tiny details, as you would in other languages.

Being able to quickly accomplish real things is motivating, which keeps your learning on track.

Dynamic types

In Python, you don't have to explicitly specify the type of a variable; you don't have to tell Python that a variable holds a number or a string or a list. It figures it out automatically. This makes programming easier and more productive for smaller projects. However it means you get less help from the computer in catching your errors, which can make huge, complex projects more difficult. That disadvantage doesn't matter for beginners at all, so starting with a dynamically typed programming language makes the learning process more smooth.

Automatic memory management

Some languages, such as C, require you to manually manage the memory of the computer. This means that you must tell the machine how much space a variable will take up in memory. You must also notify the machine when you are done using a variable so it can remove it from the computer's memory.

Such manual memory management is tedious and error-prone. It makes programming much more painful. But it also offers control and can result in programs that run faster. Manual memory management is not worth it for beginners.

Fortunately, Python has automatic memory management. You don't need to worry about memory at all.

Usable anywhere, for many things

Python can be installed on all popular operating systems. It runs everywhere with little setup.

You can do a lot of different things with Python, including:

  • data science
  • making games
  • web scraping
  • automation
  • scientific computing

Some other languages are very good for some tasks, while being the wrong tool for a lot of other tasks. Python isn't like that. Python is a good tool for a lot of different tasks.

Whatever you want to build, Python is likely a good language for it.

Want to get better at Python?

Try our practical beginner lessons, or test your skills with our challenges.

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