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.

June 1, 1996

From: Interview by Stephen Collart, Euromath Bulletin

Where has Mathematica not met your expectations?

Technically I think Mathematica is great. I’m always thinking of more things to make it do, but I’m very happy with what’s there. One thing I guess I’m slightly disappointed about is that we don’t seem to have managed to communicate some of the intellectual advances in Mathematica as thoroughly as I’d like to people in areas like computer science and mathematics. I think some very exciting intellectual things have been achieved in Mathematica—particularly in the area of language design—but there are still lots of people in fields like academic computer science who don’t understand what’s been done.

I guess another thing is that some people who I would have thought really should don’t seem to appreciate the overall design of Mathematica. One of the things I’m proudest of in Mathematica is the way all the pieces fit together—the fact that there are a fairly small number of powerful principles from which the whole system is built. I would have thought that mathematicians and people like that would immediately appreciate this kind of thing. And certainly some do. But among mathematicians and the like there is still an amazing number of feature hunters out there who don’t seem to understand the crucial value—both intellectual and practical—of good design. It seems like the axiomatic training and abstract aesthetic of mathematics doesn’t seem to translate as often as I would have expected to an understanding of system design.

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