Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.

January 1, 1993

From: Interview by Michael Swaine, Dr. Dobb's Journal

With Mathematica, did you set out to create an application program or a programming language? You sell it as an application.

I viewed the intellectually most significant [part] of the enterprise as being the creation of the elements of a programming language.

[Selling it as an application] has to do with the practical problem of introducing programming languages. Programming languages are a surprisingly slow-moving field. Fortran was invented before I was born and C is more than 20 years old now. It’s kind of strange, in a world where computer hardware and the uses that computers are put to have advanced so rapidly, that programming languages have advanced so slowly. If you have some ideas about how programming languages should be set up, and you want people to actually try using them, there’s a question of how you get [them] to do that. Once people have gotten used to using a programming language, you have to do an awful lot to convince them that they should switch to something else. We were lucky. People started off using Mathematica like an extremely enhanced calculator. And if you get a few hundred thousand people using your thing for whatever reason, then you have a reasonable community to work on in developing the language for its own sake.

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