MATLAB is a numerical computing environment and programming language, a product of The MathWorks. It is said to be easy to use for matrix manipulation, plotting of functions and data, the implementation of algorithms, the creation of user interfaces, and working with programs written in other languages. Its user base is said to exceed one million. The company website describes applications in a large number of domains including aerospace and defense; biotech, pharmaceutical and medical; computers and office equipment; financial services; and industrial and machinery. The list goes on. As you may well imagine, competitive software abounds and you should seriously examine your specific needs before committing to any product.
MATLAB, short for matrix laboratory, was invented in the late 1970s by Cleve Moler, of the University of New Mexico. He wanted to provide his students with access to some mathematics libraries without having to master the FORTRAN programming language. This product was revamped and commercialized in the mid 1980s.
This software was initially adopted by control design engineers and rapidly spread to many other domains. Current users include universities, engineering schools, and colleges, especially for teaching mathematics subjects such as linear algebra and numerical analysis. Engineers, scientists, and many others are constantly finding new uses for this software and its competitors.
MATLAB users learn the the MATLAB language, also known as M-code or M. Users can enter M-code commands at the Command Window prompt, >>. This is similar to working from the Windows or Linux command prompt. Of course command sequences may saved as a script or a function via the MATLAB Editor.
This software offers an extensive function library which is easy to use. For example, the plot function generates a graph based on two variables x, and y. The following code:
x = 0:pi/100:2*pi;
y = sin(x);
generates a graph of the sine function.
MATLAB is often called "Matrix Laboratory". It is frequently used with one-dimensional vectors, two-dimensional matrices, and multi-dimensional arrays. For example, it includes dozens and dozens of functions that create and manage matrices. The surf, plot3 and mesh functions are among the dozens of three-dimensional graphics functions.
This software can call functions and subroutines which are written in the C or FORTRAN programming languages. MATLAB can call libraries written in Java and ActiveX. But if you want to call MATLAB from Java you will have to purchase additional software. Or, if you are that kind of person with time on your hands, you can write your own.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He teaches Linux and Windows operating systems plus other computer courses at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new website www.linux4windows.com which teaches you how to download and run Damn Small Linux on Windows computers, even if they are "obsolete." For a break from computers check out his global wine website at www.theworldwidewine.com with his new weekly column reviewing $10 wines.
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