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1999 Mathematica Developers Conference

The 1999 Mathematica Developers Conference was held October 21-23 at Wolfram Research headquarters in Champaign, Illinois.

Traditionally, the Developers Conference serves as a meeting ground for inspiration and idea exchange between those interested in the use and development of Mathematica and related applications.

According to Roger Germundsson, Wolfram Research's head of Research and Development, "Most of our visitors indicate meeting WRI staff as one of their most important reasons for coming. Increasingly our attendees are finding that meeting each other is equally important. It may be learning how to set up a Mathematica consulting company, get consulting jobs or offers, and get access to other consultants. Or it might be exchanging experiences in terms of book and package development."

Attending this year's event were approximately 120 Mathematica developers, consultants, and users from around the world. The attendees represented a great diversity of fields, including computer science and control theory, chemistry, education, finance and economics, film, graphics, mathematics, and statistics, with representatives from many different organizations, universities, and corporations, including Lockheed Martin, Merck, Hewlett Packard, Dow Chemical, and the Federal Reserve.

"There is starting to be a really viable industry of companies developing products and services around Mathematica," said Germundsson. "This number is steadily increasing and it is very exciting to see them break new ground."

Stephen Wolfram, Mathematica creator and president of Wolfram Research, stated that "essentially everyone who came [to the conference] is building a product, writing a book, or looking for new ways of working with Mathematica."

The conference brings together these developers, users, and Wolfram Research staff to learn about what's new in their field and how to access, improve, or distribute a variety of products.

Many attendees were eager to hear details of Wolfram's progress on his book A New Kind of Science, as well as updates on projects on the verge of release, including Database Access Kit, Digital Image Processing, and Parallel Computing Toolkit.

Since last year's conference, 17 new Mathematica-based application packages have been released, in addition to the newest version of Mathematica itself, Mathematica 4.

The proceedings from the 1999 Mathematica Developers Conference, including notebooks and HTML versions of presentations, can be found at

Patent Formulas Processed by Mathematica

Wolfram Research, in cooperation with the holder of the U.S. patent database contract, has developed a system for handling mathematical formulas in United States patents.  

Thousands of patents have been processed using the Mathematica system and delivered to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  

The contractor for the patent database, Reed Technology and Information Services Inc. (RTIS), uses the Mathematica system to create both printed and electronic forms of mathematical formulas from the original materials submitted by inventors.  

All mathematical formulas in all U.S. patents and in the official U.S. Patent Gazette are now typeset using Mathematica.  

To meet the government's stringent typographic requirements and to ensure the most rapid and efficient formula entry, Wolfram Research worked closely with RTIS to develop the system.  

"RTIS is excited about using Mathematica in high-volume production of mathematical items for U.S. patents. Our training time and processing time have been significantly decreased and our editors are thrilled with the clear interface customized by Wolfram Research," stated Paul Karleen, Operations Project Manager at RTIS.  

Theodore W. Gray, Director of User Interfaces at Wolfram Research, noted, "The development and successful deployment of this system demonstrates that Mathematica is a powerful, practical platform for the creation of customized solutions to specialized computing problems. Any application requiring either sophisticated mathematical, typographic, or business logic implementation is a candidate for a Mathematica solution."  

Making use of Mathematica's flexible and programmable user interface elements and high-level symbolic language, the system presents a streamlined, highly tuned interface to the production floor workers who enter formulas in over 3000 patents processed weekly by RTIS. The system is deployed on a large network of Windows NT workstations at the RTIS Horsham, Pennsylvania production facility.  

The Mathematica system automatically creates multiple electronic files for each formula, including EPS, TIFF, notebook (NB file), and MathML.  MathML is a new Internet standard representation of mathematical formulas developed largely by Wolfram Research and is now an official web standard. "This means that our solution lends itself well to web display and distribution," says Paul Karleen.  

As part of the consulting process, Wolfram Research's technical staff contributed mathematical and scientific understanding to the typesetting process. The result is higher quality typography and a higher level of mathematical fidelity in the printed and electronic representations.  

Wolfram Research provided tools and training to allow RTIS operators to correctly distinguish varying uses of commonly confused symbols such as e, i, j, and d, each of which is used in two fundamentally different ways in mathematical formulas.

MathGroup Marks Milestone

More than 20,000 messages have now been posted to MathGroup since its inception in 1988. MathGroup, a technical discussion newsgroup, is a free service of Steven M. Christensen and Associates, Inc. 

Christensen, one of the first Mathematica users and creator of MathTensor, started MathGroup shortly following the official introduction of Mathematica. Members of the group post their questions to the mailing list and usually receive rapid and expert help with their Mathematica questions. Many of the world's leading experts on Mathematica, both inside and outside of Wolfram Research, read and respond to user comments and problems.

Initially, the mailing list was just that, with three or fewer postings per day. However, over the years it has grown as the number of Mathematica users has grown. MathGroup is now linked to comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica, the moderated newsgroup on the internet, and the number of messages posted daily has multiplied to 30 or more on most days now.

According to Steve Christensen, MathGroup founder and moderator, "There is no way to estimate the size of the newsgroup reading population, but there are over 2,000 members of the mailing list. My guess is that many tens of thousands read the newsgroup or mailing list regularly."

The 20,000th message was posted early Saturday morning, September 25, 1999, by Hans Steffani, a Mathematica user at the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany, in response to the question of an Austrian colleague regarding the use of fractions as axes-labels.

Free Upgrades for Mathematica 4 Compatible Application Packages 

Registered users can receive free upgrades to application packages for use with Mathematica 4. Downloads are available for Control System Professional, Dynamic Visualizer, Electrical Engineering Examples, Finance EssentialsMathematica Link for Excel, Mechanical Systems, Optica, Scientific Astronomer, Signals and Systems, Time Series, and Wavelet Explorer.  

A registered user name and application package license number are all that is required to download an application package for Mathematica 4.

For more information and downloadables:

Wolfram Research Applies for Cursor Tracker Patent

You don't have to be an experienced Mathematica user to appreciate the functionality of the cursor-tracking capability of Mathematica 4.  In this age of high-resolution, multicolor computer display technology, temporarily losing track of your cursor's position is a frequent occurrence.  In particular, when navigating mathematical expressions that are more two-dimensional than linear in nature, the cursor can unexpectedly jump to a new position.

Fortunately, while working on the new Mathematica 4 front end, Wolfram Research developers came up with a solution that minimizes the time, distraction, and eye fatigue currently involved in relocating your cursor.  Called the Cursor Tracker, this high-contrast indicator grabs the user's attention as it appears temporarily enlarged over the cursor's new position, and then rapidly reduces in size to reveal the cursor itself. 

Given the many possible applications of this new technology, Wolfram Research has filed a U.S. Patent Application for the Cursor Tracker.

New Look for the Integrator

The Integrator, the popular Internet page that offers a web interface to Mathematica, has been updated at

The new web page, in addition to offering the functionality of Mathematica Integrate, provides a brief history of symbolic computation dating back over two thousand years, from Archimedes to Leibniz, Newton, Fourier, and to the efforts of the 20th century, including the development of Mathematica.

The site is especially popular among students. Of the many hundreds of entries in The Integrator's guest book, most comments typically run along the lines of "Bitchin' site!", "Way Cool!", and "This saved me hours on my homework!".

The heart of The Integrator is Mathematica's built-in Integrate function, the same function used when Mathematica is accessed directly. Visitors to the page can type in an integral and The Integrator's web server sends a MathLink message to the Mathematica kernel, which then does the integral using the built-in Integrate function. The result is sent via MathLink from the kernel to the Mathematica front end, which produces typeset output. This output then returns to the kernel, where it is sent back to the web server.

The internal code that implements the Mathematica Integrate function contains about 500 pages of Mathematica code and 600 pages of C code.

Virginia Tech Supports Mathematica Site License Renewal

Judging from the response of the Virginia Tech faculty and students who pressed for the renewal of the site license, Mathematica has been well integrated into the courses and laboratories at the institution.  In August 1999, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech) renewed its Unlimited Mathematica Academic Site License for another three years. 

VA Tech, one of the Top 20 engineering schools in the United States, has held a Mathematica Site License since June 1993.  The Mathematica software is made available on all university-owned computers, and is also included as part of a software bundle which approximately 2000 entering freshmen acquire each fall for use on their personal computers.   

For more information on getting a Mathematica site license, send email to or visit