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Re: my wish list for Mathematica next major version

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg60144] Re: my wish list for Mathematica next major version
  • From: carlos at
  • Date: Sun, 4 Sep 2005 03:02:09 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <dfbeqh$in0$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

Learning a language in depth in college indeed shows good intentions.
But is it feasible?

When I did my graduate work at Berkeley (64-66) there were only two
languages: Fortran IV and IBM assembler. (Well, COBOL was
out but  that was for a different school.)  Engineering students
learned FIV in one-semester courses taught mostly by EE instructors
(CS didnt exist) which went fairly deep; e.g., 2-level
storage management. One interesting aside is that many of the
computer-savvy faculty at the time were experts in assembler
and could read octal dumps - they had started before Fortran I came
out in 58.  That frame of mind can be seen in Don Knuth's early books.

Contrast the situation today.  By edict from curriculum committees,
which indirectly receive industry inputs,  an engineering undergraduate
must be  "reasonably proficient" in a panoply of languages that include
C, Excel, a matrix  language, a webmaker, and a WP.  Languages
from a second tier (C++, Perl, Java,  Mathematica,  microassembler,
AutoCAD,  SolidWorks, Labview, etc) is taken as per  major, or elective
choices. (Fortran disappeared in '97.)

Can they go deep in each language?  For the majority, no way.
No background, no time, no instructors.  Few of the
instructors are able to teach beyond the barest of basics.
As for background & time,  30-40% of undergraduate
education is  remedial.  Kids coming from the public HS system
can barely write a complete sentence or divide two numbers
by hand, let alone understand what a  "dispatch table" is.

And the graduate level is a similar story.

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