1999 Mathematica Developers Conference Summary

November 15--The 1999 Mathematica Developers Conference was held October 21-23 at Wolfram Research headquarters in Champaign, Illinois. In attendance were approximately 120 top international Mathematica developers, consultants, and users. 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.

Traditionally, the Developer's Conference serves as a meeting ground for inspiration and idea exchange between those interested in the usage and development of Mathematica and related applications. According to Roger Germundsson, Head of Research and Development, "Most of our visitors indicate meeting WRI staff as one of their most important reasons for coming. ...[However,] 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."

Says Germundsson, "There is starting to be a really viable industry of companies developing products and services around Mathematica. This number is steadily increasing and it is very exciting to see them break new ground." This industry includes companies such as Visual Analysis, producers of the MathWizards software line; MathCore AB, makers of MathCode C++; Weber & Partner, with services in the area of financial risk management; and Episoft Inc, makers of Mathematica Link for Excel; as well as many smaller consulting operations.

Stephen Wolfram, Mathematica creator and President of Wolfram Research, states 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. Open forums such as the Computation Q&A generate a lot of useful tips and information about available resources. Popular conference features included the Mathematica Programming Challenge and other interactive, hands-on tutorials and product demonstrations. Also popular this year were the web-related talks on evolving technologies such as MathML and Java scripting.

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. Germundsson notes that "People are really excited about what is in the technology pipeline for Mathematica and other products. As always the number one question seems to be how fast they can get their hands on it." 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.

Read the proceedings from the conference.