I joined CNRI in February 1996. I worked with a great group of people: Fred Drake, Ken Manheimer, Roger Masse, Guido van Rossum, and Barry Warsaw. Our first manager was Ted Strollo. I think Fred started just a few weeks before I did, but he knew a lot more about Python and didn't seem like he was new.
The team was working on Grail, a web browser written in Python with Tkinter, and on Knowbots, which allowed you to write Python programs that could ship themselves around to different servers. We spent more time on Grail at first, but I think Guido had written an initial demo to support mobile Python programs before I joined.
One of my first programming tasks was the client-side HTTP cache for Grail. I don't recall what I else I did for Grail. Many years later, I wrote urllib2 to have a more flexible tool for writing HTTP client programs, probably based on some of my early HTTP experiences with Grail. I recall one funny story about the cache: We were having problems with the cache because reading the cache on startup was too expensive. It stored one page to a file and kept a log with all the metadata updates. I had simple code that read and parsed one line at a time to generate a list of tuples with the metadata. I think I tried five or six different ways to make it faster but it was still too slow. I finally struck upon using pickles instead of parsing the data by hand and then I tried cPickle. It was 8,000 times faster than the original log parsing code!
Grail was a really fun project, but surely sounds odd ten years later. Why would anyone want to write a browser in Python? At the time, web browsers weren't mature software and it was useful to have a relatively complete browser for which you had the full source in a high-level language. We did support applets written in Python. I wrote a quicksort visualization applet. Looking at the docstring, it says it was my second real Python program.
Another Python memories post.