Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Partner swapping in Scientific Computing

Since the start of modern scientific computing, relationships have been
important. Some, like Wolfram Research prefer detached friendships, offering
links to other software like Labview, Excel, Matlab etc without forming any
deeper attachment. But most seem to like to take it much further.

For many years Maple has been the most promiscuous. In bed with Matlab under
the pseudonym of "Matlab Symbolic toolbox", in bed with MathCAD, installed as
a library with every copy, in bed with Scientific Word to make the
computational version, Scientific Workplace while being happily married at
home with NAG installed with Maple to provide numerics.

Scientific Workplace was the first to break this happy arrangement. After
flirting briefly with Mathematica, it found a new, less demanding lover MuPad,
and for some time they were very happy. Now that MuPad is looking rather sick,
they may be wondering if they did the right thing as they prepare for life as
a widow.

Maple could be forgiven for feeling smug, but according to comments from
Cliff Yapp on the Axiom discussion group, it has its own impending
relationship woes. Maple's first love, MathCAD, is considering someone else
too. And even more embarrassing for Maple, MathCAD is looking like moving in
with the ancient and unattractive Maxima who is feeling younger than it looks
after the excitement of becoming open source.

As with all divorces, it's the children who suffer!

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