RISC OS Developments Ltd has announced that the work that has been underway for some while by Chris Johns and others to bring Python 3 to the platform has now seen fruition, with the latest version of the very popular programming language now generally available.
RISC OS users – especially those who like to dabble with programming – will be familiar with BBC BASIC, the programming language ‘built in’ to their system. BBC BASIC has a legacy dating all the way back to Acorn’s 8-bit computers and the education market (with BASIC itself going back far further), and its name (and that of the 8-bit computer on which it first appeared) comes from the British Broadcasting Corporation and their Computer Literacy Project. Although the original purpose of BBC BASIC was educational, it can be used to create anything from simple programs to complete applications.
Like BBC BASIC, Python is an easy learn language, and its origins are also educational; created by Guido van Rossum in the late 1980s, the original version of Python took many design concepts from a programming language called ABC, itself a language designed from the outset for teaching to IT students. Python has therefore – and understandably – gone on to fill that same purpose, and is now largely the ubiquitous language used for educational purposes. Python can be used for those same simple programs or those same complete applications, and can be easily picked up by (and therefore taught to) first time programmers, while being capable enough to be used for major projects.
And significantly, arguably the single most important hardware platform in recent years aimed at education is the Raspberry Pi, and there is a lot of love and support for Python amongst those involved with the platform, with features in magazines, programming courses, and so on.
Python 3 (3.8) is the current standard, and is significantly different to the last version supported by RISC OS (Python 2, up to 2.7.2) – so our platform was lagging woefully behind, until now. With the new release, RISC OS is listed on the official Python website as one for which the language is available.
Python 3 can be installed on RISC OS via PackMan, which most people should find in their Apps folder. According to Andrew Rawnsley, speaking on behalf of RISC OS Developments, the story doesn’t end with the release of this version; there are plans to get significant Python libraries working on the OS, such as PyGame which offers easy sound and graphics support – and beyond that, ensuring RISC OS supports Python 3.9 and beyond will be the next challenge.