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Title: The Year in Python: 2003
Description: A summary of significant events in the Python community in 2003.
Content-type: text/x-rst
In 2003, there was one new major release of Python and several minor
bugfix releases. The Python Software Foundation began to assume a
greater role and visibility in the community, organizing the first
PyCon conference. A number of noteworthy books were published, and
the conference calendar was also full.
The Python Language
Development activity continued at its usual pace despite Guido's
departure from Zope Corporation. A new major release of Python,
version 2.3, came out in 2003 and there were a number of bugfix
Python 2.3
Python 2.3 was released in July. Compared to last year's Python 2.2
release, 2.3 was fairly conservative, making relatively few changes to
the language itself. These core changes included some new built-in
functions such as ``enumerate()`` and ``sum()`` and adding a true
Boolean type. There were also a number of low-level changes such as
new import hooks, minor optimizations, and a specialized object
The real action was in the standard library, where new packages were
added for date/time handling, sets, heaps, logging, bzip2 data
compression, reading and writing tar files, word-wrapping paragraphs,
command-line parsing, and importing Python modules from ZIP archives.
Some external packages were absorbed into the standard library such as
the latest version of IDLE and the PyBSDDB wrapper for the BerkeleyDB
database library.
Another new feature in 2.3 was support for cataloging Python modules
and applications in the Package Index. The list of packages can be
browsed and searched at .
Since the release of 2.3, three bugfix releases have been issued. All
of them were ably coordinated by Anthony Baxter. The current version
is Python 2.3.3:
For the highlights of the new features, see "What's New in Python 2.3":
For a full list of changes to 2.3, see the release notes at
Python 2.3 was a significant release for the MacPython community. The
final release was timed so that Python 2.3 could be included in
Panther, version 10.3 of the MacOS X operating system; every new
Macintosh system now comes with an up-to-date version of Python, which
probably increases the Python installed base by roughly a factor of
four. Python was even mentioned in Apple's press release for
Panther (,
because Panther includes an Apple-developed wrapper for the
CoreGraphics API.
New MacOS-specific features in Python 2.3 included PackageManager, a
GUI installer that lets you choose from a selection of third-party
Python packages, and many more extensions for various MacOS APIs.
The MacPython site is at
A new site for MacPython developer discussion is at
Python 2.2
There was also a bugfix release of Python 2.2. Python 2.2.3 was
released in May, coordinated by Barry Warsaw.
The Python Software Foundation
The Python Software Foundation, or PSF, is the copyright holder for
current versions of Python.
This year the PSF became a 501(c)(3) charity for the purposes of US
taxation, so donations to the PSF are now tax-deductible in the US.
To donate funds, go to; you
can use PayPal or mail a cheque.
In December the ownership of the domain name was
transferred from CNRI, which has held it since the mid-1990s, to the
The largest PSF activity in 2003 was organizing the first PyCon
conference, held in Washington DC in late March. More about this
conference in the next section...
PyCon DC 2003 was held in Washington DC in late March, and was organized by
the Python Software Foundation.
The conference had an experimental, informal flavor. While several
tracks of refereed presentations were on the program, there was also a
lot of free time for informally scheduled presentations and
discussions, and a few development sprints took place before the
conference officially began.
Links to papers and slides from PyCon 2003 are at .
Various people posted pictures:
Mike Orr had a writeup of the conference in the Linux Journal:
A.M. Kuchling wrote about his impressions of PyCon at and
Coming Soon: PyCon 2004
The production work for PyCon 2004 is well under way. The conference
will be from March 24-26 in Washington DC. Mitch Kapor will be a
keynote speaker. Early bird registration ends February 1 2004. See
the conference web pages at for
more information.
The Python 11 conference was held as part of O'Reilly's OSCON2003
in Portland, Oregon in July.
The schedule for Python 11 is still up at .
Coming soon: The Python 12 conference will be part of OSCON 2004, July 26-30 in
Portland. The conference site is
EuroPython, the major European Python conference, was held
in Charleroi, Belgium, in June.
Links to papers and slides from EuroPython 2003 are at
Before the conference, the conference organizers interviewed various
participants; the interviews are available from .
Reports on the conference were written by
Stefane Fermigier (,,,
Michael Hudson (,
and Jarno Virtanen (
Coming soon: EuroPython 2004 is scheduled for June 7-9 2004 in Goteborg, Sweden.
The PythonUK conference was held in Oxford in April, organized with
the assistance of the Association of C/C++ Users.
Guido van Rossum's comments on the 2003 conference were:
It's a very different conference than PyCon or EuroPython,
probably because of the presence of lots of non-Python folks
(it's the yearly ACCU conference, and they do C, C++, Java and
other OO languages). The Python offerings are limited in
volume but were of very high quality.
Coming soon: The next PythonUK conference will be held in Oxford,
April 14-17 2004. It will again be held in concert with the ACCU.
Workshop on Scientific Computing with Python
The second SciPy conference was held in September 2003 at Caltech
in Pasadena, California.
The conference site is at .
You can see the schedule at .
Chuck Esterbrook wrote up his impressions:
At OSCON, a number of awards were given out to notable members of the
Python community.
* Mark Hammond won the ActiveState Programmer's
Choice award for his work on the Windows and COM frameworks for Python.
* Martin von Loewis won the Activator's Choice award for his constant and efficient work on maintaining the Python core and handling bugs and patches.
* The Frank Willison award went to Fredrik Lundh, another
skilled contributor who wrote the regular expression engine
for Python 1.6, implemented XML-RPC, and wrote an introduction to the Python standard library. He also started the Daily Python-URL weblog, which posts Python-related news and links.
His comments on receiving the award are at
The daily Python-URL is at
There was one significant disappearance from the community; the
:title-reference:`Py` 'zine published its third issue and then editor
and publisher Bryan Richard had to abandon the task due to other
personal commitments. :title-reference:`Py` was taken over by beehive
KG, the firm that's been publishing :title-reference:`ZopeMag`
magazine, and will become an electronic-only publication. The
:title-reference:`Py` web site is still at
New Books
A number of significant books were released in 2003. Some of them
covered the language's fundamentals in a general way, but a new trend
is an increasing number of application-specific titles.
O'Reilly released :title-reference:`Python in a Nutshell` by Alex
Martelli. At 654 pages long it's a pretty large nutshell, but the
book is an excellent one-volume Python reference. Soon after its
release the book reached Amazon's list of top 100 bestsellers for a
while. The book's web site is at,
and you can order it from Amazon via (using this link also earns the PSF a small affiliate fee).
The second edition of :title-reference:`Learning Python` by Mark Lutz
and David Ascher, another noteworthy title, also came out this past
year; :title-reference:`Learning Python` is most commonly recommended
as the book for beginning Python users, so this update was most
welcome. The new edition brings the coverage up to Python 2.3,
including features such as iterators and generators.
The book's web site is at,
and you can order it from Amazon at
One title went out of print and was resurrected as an e-book. Fredrik
Lundh's :title-reference:`Python Standard Library` was published in
2001, but the electronic version has additional updates, including
examples for some modules introduced in Python 2.2 and 2.3. See for the online edition.
Among the more specialized titles, two books on game development
appeared, Tom Gutschmidt's :title-reference:`Game Programming w/ Lua,
Python, Ruby`, Sean Riley's :title-reference:`Game Programming with
Python`. John Zelle's :title-reference:`Python Programming: An
Introduction to Computer Science` uses Python as the vehicle for an
introductory course. David Mertz's :title-reference:`Text Processing
in Python` takes its chosen topic and carefully covers every possible
aspect of it, mixing sections of reference material with tutorial
A more complete listing of Python books is available in the Python