Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

The Mathematica Story: A Scrapbook

Three Decades of Contributions to Invention, Discovery and Education

Alan Barhorst, Texas Tech University

It was November 1990 and I was shopping for a workstation to work at home on my dissertation at TAMU. One of my advisors had some cool-looking black cube workstations that had intrigued me because of the user interface. I learned of a cheaper pizza box slab version that was being offered at the campus bookstore. I went shopping and found out there were several packages bundled with them and one of them was called Mathematica. It was a good deal considering all that I got with the system. So I sold my ’83 Honda 1000 custom and my ’72 F100 pickup truck and bought the NeXT slab.

I used the heck out TeX and developed simulations and only played with Mathematica, trying to see how I could use it. I got my PhD and took my first job in the recession of 1991. The school I was hired at had barely any computational infrastructure so I used my own workstation and Mathematica. This is when I became a proponent of this very powerful platform. I started playing with the basic computational and plotting capabilities but also the new-to-me symbolic tools. I spent two summers at NASA in a fellowship and really got to know its symbolic power. I developed a package I still use today in my research during that time 20-plus years ago. I do all my class examples and other stuff for my textbook and notes in Mathematica and had several of my students become fellow users as well, and they have exceeded my abilities with the tool. I built a cluster of NeXT and OpenStep PCs years ago that ran an early version of the parallel tools and we are very much engaged with the product today using OS X. I followed the stories of the development of the package from afar and have always liked the gracefulness and consistency of its underlying principles. I really respect the folks creating this tool! You could see one day that the basic building blocks from those early days would allow a very powerful tool to be continuously created. We see that today.

Happy anniversary, Wolfram Mathematica!