Guido van Rossum was born in the city of Den Haag in the Netherlands on January 31st, 1956. Van Rossum went to school for computer science, earning a master’s degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Amsterdam in 1982. The 1980s were a time of great achievement in computer science, as computers started to become more useful for actual computation. During this time, Apple released its first Macintosh computer, and later in the decade, the Macintosh Portable. In 1989, Intel would release the Touchstone Delta supercomputer. With computers rapidly becoming more advanced, there was a surge in interest in software education. Van Rossum is one of many notable figures in computer science and technology to get his start during this time. His contemporaries include individuals like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
After receiving his master’s, Van Rossum went on to work at several research institutes, including at Dutch Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) and the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Van Rossum aided in developing the ABC programming language throughout his early career. The ABC programming language is an interactive programming language and environment that is structured and high-leveled. ABC is one of the many programming languages that are foundational to modern personal computing. It would also go on to influence Guido van Rossum to design a programming language of his own.
During the winter of 1989, Van Rossum began programming Python as a hobby to keep him occupied during the holidays. According to Van Rossum, he wanted to write a programming language that was accessible to everyone. Van Rossum’s goals for Python included making an easy and intuitive language that was just as powerful as its more complicated competitors. He also wanted Python to be open source and written in simple English so that even novices could utilize it. And more than anything, he wanted to use Python to make computing fun. Guido van Rossum was inspired to name his creation after the legendary British comedy group Monty Python. The comedy group is known for its playful sketches, and van Rossum wanted to take the same light-hearted approach with his programming language. Python would eventually become one of the most widely used programming languages globally.
Van Rossum would go on to work for Google, where he spent the majority of his time working on Python. He also worked for Dropbox before retiring, eventually ending his retirement to work for Microsoft in 2020. Rossum has received many notable awards throughout his career, and he has been made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.