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What should Mma be, part II

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  • Subject: What should Mma be, part II
  • From: jcao at (Jingbin Cao)
  • Date: Fri, 11 Dec 92 18:51:31 EST

Warren Wiscombe writes:
 > back to the days of monolithic applications.  There will always be those
 > that don't have the energy, the desire, or the experience to put the custom
 > collection of tools together to do the job right, but rather prefer a giant
 > application that does everything--but nothing very well.  There are many
 > examples I might cite, but perhaps one from my own long experience with PCs
 > has at least the virtue of being first-person and not anecdotal.  In the
 > early days of PCs, I tried tools like WordStar, and I tried monumental
 > applications like Symphony that 'integrated' a word processor, a
 > spreadsheet, and God knows what else.  The tool philosophy quickly won my
 > allegiance, and that of the vast majority of PC users, while applications
 > like Symphony are now history.  Walk into any software store and see the
 > winning philosophy.  Beginners still flock to applications like MicroSoft
 > Works, but the minute they acquire any experience whatsoever, they leave
 > them to work with a collection of custom tools.
 >   The principle of using a collection of sharp tools rather than one blunt
 > sledgehammer is a triumph of modern computing philosophy.  To roll back the
 > clock, and ask Mma to be the Symphony of the 1990s, is to betray everything
 > we have learned about computing.

As I see it, Mma is a collection of tools, Show, Plot, D, Solve, etc.
The debate is whether WRI should devote more resources to sharpen some
tools in favor over the rest. As I have suggested, the allocation of
resources in this case is not a zero-sum game.

Symphony failed because it could not compete in the market place, not
because it was an integrated package, or for any other reasons.
WordStar failed for the same reason, eventhough it is undoubtly a
_specialized_ tool.

Speaking of philosophy, there is another one learned over the years
that one should always bear in mind: It is more efficient to compute
in high level language than in low level language. Why should anyone
who wants nice graphs for his/her paper or job interview presentation
have to learn and mess with TeX or postscript, two very arcane systems
to many if not most people?

Jingbin Cao
I'll get my Ph.D. very soon. :-)

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