(How’s that for a deliberately provocative title?)
Actually, in spite of everything your first impression is telling you, it’s intended as a compliment. Perhaps if I amend it a little, my intent will become clear:
“Python is both the new BASIC and the new Turbo Pascal.”
What I mean is this:
1) Python is freely available on all major computing platforms. Almost anybody with a computer can have access to Python. People working on the .NET and Java platforms also have the option of IronPython and Jython, respectively.
2) Python is accessible to beginners. A non-programmer can begin using Python and can do some interesting things without much fuss, day one, hour one. In large part this is because Python removes much of the clutter that it takes to get programs working in other languages. A text file and few lines of code, and you’ve got a Python program.
3) Python is accessible to young people. This includes the various Python tutorials aimed specifically at young people. PyGame, in particular, makes it simple for kids to get started doing all sorts of fun and interesting things.
4) Python doesn’t make you wait around, for results. You write a program and run it, no separate compilation phase. This is critical to keeping small programming tasks fun and useful. And although Python is not C, it is pretty darn fast when it runs, as well.
5) Python is handy for scientists and engineers. It was common “back in the day,” for scientists and engineers to use built-in line-number BASIC as a kind of “super programmable calculator.” Python does the same thing; it doesn’t punish you with all the scaffolding required by a large, structured program for simple cases where you don’t need it.
6) However, like Turbo Pascal, Python makes more advanced programing idioms available when you need them. Beginners can start simple and work their way towards more sophisticated concepts. Programs can start as linear test code and be refactored into more complex structures.
7) Also like Turbo Pascal, Python incorporates the best computer science that can be made easy to use. Python doesn’t push the state of the art for all computer science, but what it includes, it includes in a straightforward, “Pythonic” way.
And here’s one way Python is unlike BASIC:
1) The Python ecosystem contains a huge number of excellent libraries and other tools. So much so, in fact, that it has led to the description of Python as “a collection of libraries that just happens to be associated with a programming language.” In large part, this results from the way Python’s simplicity and fun encourages domain experts to produce such libraries.
There are a lot of other good and bad things about Python, but that’s how I can say “Python is the new BASIC,” and mean it as a compliment.