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.

February 1, 1993

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

So one rationale behind procedural programming is that it’s easy to learn. But one rationale for a hidden state is an optimization of some sort. Why do you think people don’t need optimization anymore?

There are very few programs that are written for the first time where execution speed is an issue. When you’re running your word processor, you don’t want the scrolling to be slow, but that’s a different point. If you look at the history of programming-language design, almost every major screw-up is a consequence of people pandering to some optimization, starting from Fortran Hollerith-format statements. The trick is figuring out how to get there, rather than worrying all the time about how you’re going to get there. Another direction that I’ve thought about is parallel processing and its relationship to languages. There was a language called C* that I made the original design for, for the Connection machine. Unfortunately, what C* finally became was extremely far from what I had worked on. That’s one of the reasons I don’t do consulting anymore.

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