# Integrated Solutions to Complex Problems

**Vanessa Spedding, Scientific Computing World
(December 1996) 3.**
Stephen Wolfram, pioneer in the field of complex systems research, creator
of the

*Mathematica*software environment and president and CEO of the USA's Wolfram Research, spoke to Vanessa Spedding about the changing face of technical computing.

**Q:**
What inspired your ideas in technical computing?

**A:**
I was working in particle physics where a lot of the problems involved
complicated calculations. I tried to use existing computer tools for doing
these, but grew frustrated with them and decided to build better tools that
would help make more efficient use of time.

I had developed the SMP computer algebra system by 1981, but then moved on to complex systems research. Here I was dealing with what I view to be one of the most fundamental questions in science: how did nature produce all this complexity and what tools could we build that could help deal with such problems?

**Q:**
How did this lead to *Mathematica?*

**A:**
I needed to do lots of calculations and complicated experiments. I was
analysing how I spent my time—the majority of it was spent thinking what
to do and cobbling together programs and tools that would enable me to do
it. I realized it would be nice to have a unified, integrated system to do
everything: graphics, algebraic calculations, documents and so on. The
main conceptual achievement was that symbolic processing could be the
underlying foundation. Nature's complexity inspired the idea that
computational systems could parallel intellectual activity.

**Q:**
How has the program changed?

**A:**
Creating *Mathematica* has been a continuous process. I'm proud of the fact
that there were very few mistakes in the underlying structure of the first
version: you can run Version 1 programs in Version 3. The second version
deepened the program—it took its capabilities further. Version 3 adds
more depth and also broadens it. You can now add programmable documents
and do mathematical typesetting, for example.

**Q:**
Where is it going next?

**A:**
*Mathematica* is a unique product. It is more general than other technical
software; most of the competition comes from Fortran. I predict that more
and more programs will be written in *Mathematica* rather than in Fortran
until the replacement of Fortran is complete. *Mathematica* will reach out
to the point where more practitioners will make use of it in their
technical work. The interface will not evolve much more over the next 10
years: there will be refinements, but the notebook interface, with its
interactive, on-line documents, presents a natural way of working.