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Re: Range of Use of Mathematica

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg89061] Re: Range of Use of Mathematica
  • From: David Bailey <dave at>
  • Date: Sun, 25 May 2008 03:18:42 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <g0m8tt$14$> <g0rkfr$dtv$> <> <g11qvh$a6r$> <> <g18hvh$km0$>

Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:

> I think you somewhat misunderstood my point (and I think AES's point  
> too). To put it in a nutshell: if you wish to use Mathematica only as  
> a computational engine and use TeX, Illustrator and whatever other  
> programs you wish to use for non-computational tasks, then you can do  
> this just as well with Mathematica 6 as with 5 or earlier, and in fact  
> much better, since the computational engine is now much more powerful.  
> It has become much more powerful without any fundamental changes to  
> the basic structure of the language (which is not the case with some  
> other rival programs). So, if you do not care for Mathematica's  
> typesetting, graphic and presentational capabilities you can simply  
> ignore them - they in no way affect the computational ones. Indeed,  
> this has to be so, otherwise the Kernel would not be able to function  
> without the F.E. and it obviously does.
> Your concerns about the FE becoming over complex for newcomers  
> (whether justified or not) affect only those newcomers who need  
> capabilities other than pulling down menus, copying and pasting and  
> using Shift-Enter. If I am not mistaken, AES thinks that these are the  
> only FE capabilities Mathematica needs. My point is that for users who  
> adopt his approach (which I have nothing against in itself,  
> particularly that it isn't all that different from mine) there has  
> been no significant in difficulty and complexity. Even the complaint  
> about the lack of printed documentation does not carry much weight, if  
> all that you care about is the Kernel, since available documentation  
> for earlier versions is more than enough to turn one into a (Kernel)  
> power-user.
> Finally, I would like to add one comment on the issue of WRI's  
> "strategy" that AES has raised. Actually, this strategy has been very  
> clear many, many years, in fact even since WRI decided to re-position  
> Mathematica from a "system for doing mathematics by computer" (in  
> other words a "CAS") to "fully integrated technical computing system".  
> Note the words "fully integrated". To me it has been clear for more  
> than a decade that this was meant to imply things like typesetting, a  
> fully programmable graphic engine (independent of PostScript), and  
> other things. In fact, any one who attended any of the numerous  
> Mathematica demos, particularly those conducted by Theo Gray, could  
> have had no doubt about this. Has this been a success? Well, let me  
> point out that quite a large number of commercial general-purpose CAS  
> have appeared since Mathematica's debut (and some even earlier). With  
> one notable exception none of these has been a commercial success and  
> most are available now as freeware. I would say that is a pretty clear  
> vindication of Wolfram's strategy.
> By all means have a discussion of the "product strategy" of  
> Mathematica if you enjoy this sort of thing. Butif if anyone hops to  
> stop or reverse the ongoing process of "integration" (as in "fully  
> integrated") than all I have to say is that it seems to me to be  
> rather late for that; by over a decade, actually.
> Andrzej Kozlowski

My comments regarding the size of Mathematica related particularly to 
the future. The problem is that a new user doesn't know, say, that for 
his purpose he should concentrate on the kernel functions (he doesn't 
even know what the kernel is) - he is presented with the totality, and 
has to figure out how best to use the product. A potential user may get 
no further than reading a review that presents Mathematica in a way that 
seems to him to involve an excessive learning curve.

David Bailey

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