Less Grumpy About Python 3’s Break From Python 2.

Python LogoI spent more than a decade and a half in a software engineering job where backwards compatibility is a must, all day, every day. It’s very disorienting for me to switch to a world where such a sacred commandment would be discarded as when Python 3 was launched with severe incompatibilities from Python 2.

As a novice to Python, I was not aware of the problems that Python developers tried to leave behind in the break and I’m also ignorant of the positives Python 3 offered as a benefit to balance the cost. All I saw was the aftermath of an incredibly disruptive change that, almost a decade after it started, is still far from complete.

Part of my motivation to learn Python is ROS, which is still on Python 2. This meant I’ll have to deal with the transition costs even though I’m new to the scene. This was not a happy introduction to the world.

Fortunately the lengthy transition also meant there’s been time for people to voice similar concerns and for the people behind Python to write up their explanation. There’s a fairly lengthy explanation on Python.org titled “Should I use Python 2 or Python 3 for my development activity?” which links to an even lengthier “Python 3 Q&A” that has evolved over the past five years.

After reading it all, I see their point. Especially the parts around Unicode support. I can see how changing behavior of a fundamental concept like strings in a language can’t be done without breaking compatibility, and I can understand why it is a required transition for the language to be successful in the rest of the world beyond the English-speaking communities.

I don’t have to be happy about it, but I can at least understand it, and that does help to make me a little less grumpy when I have to deal with the aftermath.

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