Stephen Wolfram Remembering Steve Jobs in the Guardian, Me Thinking About Mathematica

Mathematica is one of my favorite tools. I first learned about it (version 2–it is now version 8) as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech. I learned how to use it in the computer labs, but I wanted to use it in my dorm room. Unfortunately, I was reminded about the necessity of a floating-point unit to using complex calculating software at a speed faster than a sliderule; my Apple Powerbook 145B was woefully underpowered, lacking the necessary FPU that would have made Mathematica fly. As it was, I plotted one curve and it took 45 minutes to complete the operation. It was shortly after that that I upgraded to a Power Macintosh 8500, which significantly sped things along.

Mathematica was originally built by an exquisitely smart fellow named Steven Wolfram. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Georgia Tech when he come for a visit and lecture–I believe talking about his work thus far on what become his book A New Kind of Science and the upcoming release of Mathematica 3. Even though I probably didn’t say anything of substance or intelligence when I met him, he was still very polite and cordial to me.

Apparently, Mathematica’s development paralleled Steve Job’s work on the NeXT computer and then his return to Apple. Wolfram has some nice things to say about Jobs and his influence on Mathematica in the Guardian here.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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