Guido van Rossum was one of the speakers at the SDForum talk this morning. Its always interesting to find out the reasons why a language was born, and thats exactly what he spoke about before he jumped into python internals.
Guido happened to live a perfect normal school kid life until high school when he discovered computers in his school basement 30 years ago. He jumped into Algol-60 Fortran and Pascal and then continued to learn other languages as he went along.
About 20 years ago, while he was working with C and Unix, he also worked on implementing a new language called ABC which was ported to Mac and PC (DOS). ABC was designed to be simple enough to teach people who don't know computers very well. They, infact, taught it to a librarian to test how easy it was. Unfortunately, though the philosophy behind ABC was good, its lack of integration was one of the cause of its failiure.
After ABC, Guido worked on implementing Amoeba, (a new OS) and soon realised that it required a scripting language. The lack of a bridge between shell and C, the experience of having developed an elegant scripting language (ABC), availability of some free at hand and having a lot of nice ideas on implementing a new language contributed to the reasons why Guido started thinking about a new language.
In 1989 (during christmas) he started working on these ideas. His objectives were clear, he wanted the simplicity of ABC, make it interactive (shell), make it extensible, work with other languages, and wanted it to be simple enough so that he can implement it himself. The time chosen to pick the name for the new language, according to Guido, was not more than a heartbeat.. and it had something to do with his pre-occupation with Monty Python's Flying Circus
And hence python was born...