Python is one of the most popular free open source programming languages used for commercial and hobbyist robotics.
It is also one of the most widely used languages among social media companies like Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc.
They say that Python is used a lot at Netflix for its machine learning applications which keep track of its massive amounts of information about what shows that their millions of viewers watch and might want to watch etc.
It is probably the most popular language with users of the Raspberry Pi tiny computer board and anyone doing hobby all the way up to professional level robotics and any form of AI.
Python was written in 1991 by Guido van Rossum and the name was a reference to the popular BBC tv show at the time “Monty Python flying circus”.
Python was actually written using the C language.
Now, technically Python is called a high level, interpreted, object oriented language that is easier to learn than other languages like C or C++ since you don’t have to declare certain things in your program and worry about memory managent which can be tricky.
It is an interpreted language so it does not need a compiler but people often use the words compiler and IDE to be the same thing.
So you will probably use an IDE or integrated development environment to write your program and that will either be one you use online on a website or one that you download to your computer.
Without the IDE you would have to use a basic text editor to type in your lines of code (like ) and then an interpreter (like MU or Thonny) to take these lines of code and execute the lines of code called your program to do something.
MU is no longer available for older 32 bit Windows machines as of 2021 so you must get the 64 bit version.
So beginners can try some online IDE’s like http://repli.it or you can download one.
You can go to the main website Python.org to learn more about it or download an IDE (integrated development environment).
Some popular names for Python IDEs or compilers are PyCharm, PyDev, Thonny, Jupyter Notebook, Sublime Text, Atom, IDLE, Spyder, Wing, Visual Studio Code
It is complicated to install and use a downloaded IDE to a person who has not programmed before and especially if one has not used Linux before if they are using a Raspberry Pi.
Now you need to decide what type of computer to install Python on.
To use Python you will probably first decide if you want to install it on a Windows or Mac computer or do it like the real pros and install it on a Raspberry Pi using some fairly complicated Linux command line words.
Its probably best for total beginners to use an online Python IDE but you could install one on their Windows computer and then putter around with some of the prewritten libraries.
Most real time libraries in Python are written as Python wrappers around others.
When you get at the command line and start entering linux commands on a Raspberry Pi…you can’t make a simple mistake with your typing as one letter wrong will cause the statement to not be understood.
But there are a handful of basic Linux and basic Python commands that you will have to use and once you get used to typing them in, then it will make a lot more sense.
There are hundreds or more sites to learn how to program in Python and here are some of them:
- Dexter Industries – they make small learning robots for schools and have great Python courses and code to download http://dexterindustries.com
Here is a good intermediate/advanced article by Nick McCrea on writing robot control software using Python. https://www.toptal.com/robotics/programming-a-robot-an-introductory-tutorial
Here is a funny and very educational video by the multi-million views young Youtuber’ Michael Reeves as he shows off his builder and Raspberry pi and Python skills putting together a hospital operating robot! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_BlNA7bBxo
He says that during the lockdowns he just used whatever materials he had around the house or could order online to build what looks like a gigantic 3d printer with rails and Mike Meyers slasher knife going back and forth over a fake patient as blood goes everywhere!
He does show some very skillful work with the various motors and hand tracking software and more.
(under construction November 2021)