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Re: Peter Coffee article

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg4876] Re: Peter Coffee article
  • From: Mark Evans <evans at>
  • Date: Thu, 26 Sep 1996 22:42:28 -0400
  • Organization: None
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

duanef at wrote:
> A week or two ago there was an article in PC Week about the forth coming v3.0 of
> Mathematica (there is a link to the article on Wolfram's web site) basically stating
> that it is not just for symbolic computation anymore.  That is a full-fledge
> programming language suitable to process control type applications, such as
> controlling a manufacturing plant.
> I would appreciate any comments on the article, the upcoming v3.0 and any possible
> connections to the GIS world.  Bear in mind, I have never used Mathametica before.
> Thanks,
> Duane Foster
> duanef at
> Utilities Department
> Univ of Mich

Yes, as Peter Coffee wrote, the 3.0 version might better be called "Informatica."  I 
agree with most of what he said in the article.  I am wowed by Mathematica 3.0, too.

However, you should be careful with the idea of using *any* PC-based program to control 
a manufacturing plant.  I don't even care if you use a product specifically advertised 
for process control:  if it runs on a PC or workstation, be careful, and if it runs 
Windows 3.1 or 95, forget it.  For example, National Instruments sells some new software 
tailored for process control, but as much as I admire the quality of their software 
products, I'm not sure they make this fine print clear enough.

The problem is typically not the application software, but the OS and the computer 
hardware.  You need a high-reliability OS (read "real-time") and special features that 
are not designed into typical desktop computers in order to run a plant.  Having said 
that much, there are embedded computers designed around PC architectures that can meet 
these requirements (e.g. STD BUS).  You still have to be careful of the OS.  When it 
comes to plant process control, interpret the Windows label as you would a warning 

Mathematica 3.0 is a general-purpose mathematical, statistical, and information 
processor with fabulous graphics and complete extensibility.  It can be used to handle 
any kind of data you wish, including GIS data.  The user interface of version 3.0 is now 
programmable, so you can set up interesting end-user programs that do not require a 
great deal of application knowledge on the part of the user.  Where special-purpose 
compiled code may be needed, you can link it to Mathematica through a protocol setup 
called MathLink that turns your code into a Mathematica subroutine, or conversely, turns 
Mathematica into a giant subroutine for your code to call.

I recommend visiting the Wolfram web site and taking a look at the in-depth coverage of 
3.0 for yourself.

Mark Evans
evans at


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