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Re: Re: "Do What I Mean" - a suggestion for improving

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  • Subject: [mg97174] Re: [mg97135] Re: "Do What I Mean" - a suggestion for improving
  • From: Andrzej Kozlowski <akoz at>
  • Date: Sat, 7 Mar 2009 02:38:35 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <goo7l7$shc$> <>

I know now I am repeating myself but then so are you, and in fact not  
for the first time. But I am genuinely puzzled and I have never  
received anything that would even resemble an answer to my puzzlement.  
Which is why I will ask my question once more.
You have made it abundantly clear that the kind of "superb tools" that  
you are looking for are (or is) modern, computer software version of a  
programmable graphic calculator (like the HP ones that you are  
praising so much). The strange thing is that there are lots of such  
programs, much cheaper than Mathematica and at least one (Calc Center)  
made by Wolfram Research. I have pointed this out to you many times  
but instead of simply trying out one of them you keep coming back with  
"suggestions" for WRI, which essentially say that Mathematica ought to  
be remade in the image of an HP calculator. You keep doing that  
although you must know perfectly well that there is no chance whatever  
than they will be paid any attention to, never mind  adopted.
So, my question is, is it really that you just have too much free time  
on your hands and are just trying to provoke those of us (like myself)  
for whom "your kind" of Mathematica (HP-calculator style) would be  
completely useless?

Andrzej Kozlowski

On 6 Mar 2009, at 10:24, AES wrote:

> In article <goo7l7$shc$1 at>,
> Bill Rowe <readnews at> wrote:
>> I do not think it is even a good
>> idea to attempt to make Mathematica accessible to users with
>> minimal computer/mathematics experience/knowledge assuming this
>> is even possible.
> I guess we'll just have to disagree -- vehemently! -- on this one (and
> also with great sadness on my part, if this should represent Wolfram's
> anything like Wolfram's actual views or objectives).
> By sheer coincidence, a few minutes after seeing the above post I read
> the following post in another newsgroup (it's a big long, but just  
> skim
> down to the end):
> ============================================
> This thread reminded me of one of my favorite
> published papers (because of its sheer readability) and I could not
> resist bringing it to the attention of others, old and dated though it
> may be.  Scrounge through the stacks of your local engineering
> library:
> Test yourself: how much do you know about international
> communications? [International numbering systems]
> Robrock, A. (Italtel, Milan)
> IEEE Communications Magazine, December 1989
> Volume: 27,  Issue: 12
> Abstract
> We like to think of international telephone communications as
> `transparent', the successful outcome of 100 years of technical
> progress and standards setting, but the author shows us that it is
> not. The user still has to be something of an expert to understand how
> to make international calls, and there are chaotically differing
> numbering systems for telephony, telex, and electronic mail. We should
> be reminded that usability of services, not just their usefulness, is
> a critical component of communications. Simplicity, consistency, and
> rationality of service features and the `human interface' that allows
> users to invoke them should be a high priority for communications
> engineers as they work toward the integrated services networks of the
> future
> ============================================
> Besides the "chaotically differing" phraseology, it's the final two
> sentences that catch my eye.  Should Mathematica interface designers
> maybe be reminded that
>   "it's the _usability_ of software, not just its _usefulness_,
>   that's a critical component of software interface design"
> and even better
>   "Simplicity, consistency, and rationality of software features
>    ** and the `human interface' that allows users to invoke them **
>    should be a high priority for software designers as they work  
> toward
>    the integrated services networks -- sorry, integrated software
>    packages -- of the future."
> Interesting -- "_integrated_ software packages?" -- don't I recall  
> that
> that's one of the big selling points for Mathematica? (although one  
> that
> I personally believe can really only be effectively achieved -- for
> software that is, not necessarily for networks -- using a much more
> modular approach.
>> There are a great many things in mathematics that work in
>> specialized cases. For example, a user with little experience in
>> mathematics likely would expect Sqrt[x^2] to simplify to x. But
>> that transformation is only valid when x is real and positive.
>> If Mathematica were to automatically do this simplification (or
>> many others of a similar nature) it would not be an adequate
>> tool for me or many other users since it would be creating
>> erroneous output. Worse, even for those users where this
>> happened to be the correct output, the issue gets hidden and
>> they would learn to trust Mathematica only to lose trust when
>> things were more complex.
>> The point is mathematics is complex. A tool designed to
>> implement mathematics can hardly be less complex. Attempts to
>> reduce the complexity invariably mean some aspects (typically
>> special cases) of the mathematics are being ignored or hidden.
>> Ignoring or hiding such special cases limits the usefulness of  
>> Mathematica.
> Don't really disagree on the facts here -- just the operational
> conclusions:
> 1)  Are you really saying that the whole series of superb hp  
> calculators
> out of which I got so many useful scientific and engineering results  
> in
> earlier years -- and which, incidentally and painlessly, also gave  
> me at
> least an introduction to the concepts of Reverse Polish notation and
> stacks as an aside -- should not have had a "Sqrt[x]" key?
> [And incidentally:  Would you not like to see Mathematica be as widely
> used, and useful, as were those superb tools?]
> 2)  I'm an engineer and physicist; other potential Mathematica users
> might be from innumerable other practical fields (econ, stat,  
> business,
> etc etc).  We know some math; varying amounts for different fields and
> levels within fields.  We know there are complexities in math that we
> may not understand.  But we also have the protection that when we
> calculate results using some, we can (and do!) look at them and apply
> "physically reasonable" criteria (or "realistic results" in other
> fields) as part of our criteria.  We don't denigrate rigor, or fail to
> take care about the possibility of unanticipated special cases.  But  
> we
> have _other_ tools that mathematicians don't have, to help us cope  
> with
> the possibility of those.

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