Not so Useful Dumb User Questions
- To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
- Subject: [mg9148] Not so Useful Dumb User Questions
- From: fast at newton.Colorado.EDU (Bruce Alan Fast)
- Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 03:37:50 -0400
- Organization: University of Colorado at Boulder
- Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com
Mark Evans persists,
> The analogy of the calculator has been misunderstood....
We understand just fine, thanks. Most people who use a
calculator know something about basic arithmetic, so they
know what to expect doing a few basic operations on decimal
numbers. Most people who use a word processor are literate,
they've read a book maybe, and much of word processing is
nothing beyond what you see painted on the keys.
I am astounded at the attempt to compare calculators and
word processors to advanced software. Even in the case of
word processors, you ignore the great difficulty that many
people have as soon as they have to use the mouse, or menus.
> We exhibit technical condescension when we see one novice after
> another ask the question, "How come Sqrt[a^2] doesn't yield a?"
> and forever return the stock answer that We Must Accomodate the
> General Case without thinking about whether, indeed, the novice
> has a decent right to expect "a" as his answer, or should have
> the means to declare a in such a fashion that "a" becomes the
> answer to "Sqrt[a^2]."
People who don't know basic algebra -- and that is most people
-- perhaps should be using a calculator instead of Mathematica.
Think seriously for a minute about the consequences of having
any "mathematical" software actually return "a" for "Sqrt[a^2]".
When you say that we don't think "about whether, indeed, the
novice has a decent right to expect "a" as his answer", you are
making a huge assumption. It has been thought about **plenty** --
but rejected in the end, time after time, with good reasons.
Bruce Fast Bruce.Fast at Colorado.EDU
Information Technology Services (303)492-8995
University of Colorado Boulder CO 80309-0455
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