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Mathematica Conference Impressions

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  • Subject: Mathematica Conference Impressions
  • From: fink at acf5.NYU.EDU (Howard Fink)
  • Date: Tue, 22 Jan 91 13:08:59 -0500

Well, I was there from Noon Saturday to 2 Tuesday.  
This being Wolfram's second conference, they handled it much better than
the first.  More tutorials, with many repeated.  Many more machines avail-
able than last year for hands-on work.  Several problem-solving workshops
scheduled, with mathematica principals available for consultation.  
Elementary Tutorial notes were bound, and the Intermediate and Advanced
Tutorial note sets will be if ordered.  San Francisco much nicer than 
Redwood City.
     My chief source of exasperation, and it was mild, was that all the 
tutorials were done using Mathematica 2.0, announced at the conference but
unreleased, and not available for three months.  By Sunday afternoon I 
realized the action was in the short talks, not the tutorials.  Here were
ordinary people doing extraordinary things with the program.  Sandra Dawson
demonstrated Mathematica Notebooks for High School students, and had the 
first issue of the High School Mathematica Network Newsletter.  She made
her notebooks available for copying, as did many other speakers.  All the
speakers had written their notebooks in 1.2.  The topics of the short talks
ranged from Trigonometry to Tensors, and I'm sorry I didn't attend more.
     There were several new books available from Addison-Wesley and others,
the most notable was Exploring Mathematics with Mathematica, by Theodore Gray
and Jerry Glynn.  The book is a Mathematica Notebook, printed from within
Mathematica.  Theo, who wrote the Mac front end, extended it for 2.0 just so
he might print such a book, and so others might do the same.  Distributed
with the book is a CD, readable by CD-ROM drives and audio CD players.  The
CD comes with MathReader 2.0.  I bought a copy, and the mathreader works,
the notebooks open, the animations run.  For those without CD-ROM drives,
you can play the sounds on an audio CD.  
     Yes, 2.0 has sound.  You can now play your functions.  You can also
cut a sound cell and paste it into the control panel on your mac for a new
beep.  I'll let someone else go into the new features of 2.0, mostly because
no one but developers can use it now.
     My overall impression was a sense of mission and dedication on the part
of both Wolfram's staff and many of the presenters.  About a thousand people
were at the conference.  Of course these are a self-selected group.  Still,
my feeling, which I expect is shared, is that Mathematica is an important
step in the development of mathematics.  Mathematica 3.0 (don't expect it for
a couple three years) will have an intelligent structure editor, so expressions
can be written, typeset and understood by the program.  The development of
pen-based operating systems is probably a necessary prolog.

Howard Fink

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