Mathematica 1.0 was launched on June 23, 1988. So (depending a little on how you do the computation) today is its one-third-century anniversary. And it’s wonderful to see how the tower of ideas and technology that we’ve worked so hard on for so long has grown in that third of a century—and how tall it’s become and how rapidly it still goes on growing.
In the past few years, I’ve come to have an ever-greater appreciation for just how unique what we’ve ended up building is, and just how fortunate our original choices of foundations and principles were. And even after a third of a century, what we have still seems like an artifact from the future—indeed ever more so with each passing year as it continues to grow and develop.
In the long view of intellectual history, this past one-third century will be seen as the time when the computational paradigm first took serious root, and when all its implications for “computational X” began to grow. And personally I feel very fortunate to have lived at the right time in history to have been able to be deeply involved with this and for what we have built to have made such a contribution to it.
Look What We Made in Five Months!
It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for 35 years, building a taller and taller tower of ideas and technology that allow us to reach ever further. In earlier times we used to release the results of efforts only every few years. But in recent times we’ve started doing incremental (“.1”) releases that deliver our latest R&D achievements—both fully fleshed out, and partly as “coming attractions”—much more frequently.
We released Version 12.2 on December 16, 2020. And today, just five months later, we’re releasing Version 12.3. There are some breakthroughs and major new directions in 12.3. But much of what’s in 12.3 is just about making Wolfram Language and Mathematica better, smoother and more convenient to use. Things are faster. More “But what about ___?” cases are handled. Big frameworks are more completely filled out. And there are lots of new conveniences.
There are also the first pieces of what will become large-scale structures in the future. Early functions—already highly useful in their own right—that will in future releases be pieces of major systemwide frameworks.
Yet Bigger than Ever Before
When we released Version 12.1 in March of this year, I was pleased to be able to say that with its 182 new functions it was the biggest .1 release we’d ever had. But just nine months later, we’ve got an even bigger .1 release! Version 12.2, launching today, has 228 completely new functions!
The Wolfram Language is the culmination of decades of effort, supporting all our products. One reason the Wolfram Language is so easy to use is the Wolfram Language & System Documentation Center—unique in that it contains reference information along with tens of thousands of examples that can be edited and run in place (or quickly copied from the web to your notebook).
We recently released Version 12.1 of the Wolfram Language, and with it, a number of new documentation features and page types. With every release, you’ll find an increasing scope of functionality, examples and use cases documented for different fields and applications, presented with an intuitive, user-friendly design.
The Biggest .1 Release Ever
It’s always an interesting time. We’re getting ready to wrap up a .1 version---to release the latest fruits of our research and development efforts. “Is it going to be a big release?”, I wonder. Of course, I know we’ve done a lot of work since we released Version 12.0 last April. All those design reviews (many livestreamed). All those new things we’ve built and figured out.
But then we start actually making the list for the new version. And---OMG---it goes on and on. Different teams are delivering on this or that project that started X years ago. A new function is being added for this. There's some new innovation about that. Etc.
We started this journey a third of a century ago when we began the development of Version 1.0. And after all these years, it's amazing how the energy of each new release seems to be ever greater.
And as we went on making the list for Version 12.1 we wondered, "Will it actually be our biggest .1 release ever?". We finally got the answer: "Yes! And by a lot".
Counting functions isn't always the best measure, but it's an indication. And in Version 12.1 there are a total of 182 completely new functions---as well as updates and enhancements to many hundreds more.
The Next Big Step for Wolfram|Alpha
Wolfram|Alpha has been a huge hit with students. Whether in college or high school, Wolfram|Alpha has become a ubiquitous way for students to get answers. But it’s a one-shot process: a student enters the question they want to ask (say in math) and Wolfram|Alpha gives them the (usually richly contextualized) answer. It’s incredibly useful---especially when coupled with its step-by-step solution capabilities.
But what if one doesn't want just a one-shot answer? What if one wants to build up (or work through) a whole computation? Well, that's what we created Mathematica and its whole notebook interface to do. And for more than 30 years that's how countless inventions and discoveries have been made around the world. It's also how generations of higher-level students have been taught.
But what about students who aren't ready to use Mathematica yet? What if we could take the power of Mathematica (and what's now the Wolfram Language), but combine it with the ease of Wolfram|Alpha?
Well, that's what we've done in Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition.
With the recent announcement of the all-new Raspberry Pi 4, we are proud to announce that our latest development, Version 12 of Mathematica and the Wolfram Language, is available for you to use when you get your hands on the Raspberry Pi 4.
Mathematica 12 is a major milestone in our journey that has spanned 30 years, significantly extending the reach of Mathematica and introducing a whole array of new features, including significant expansion of numerical, mathematic and geometric computation, audio and signal processing, text and language processing, machine learning, neural networks and much more. Version 12 gives Mathematica users new levels of power and effectiveness. With thousands of different updates across the system, and 278 new functions in 103 areas, there is so much to explore.
What the Wolfram Language Makes Possible
We’re on an exciting path these days with the Wolfram Language. Just three weeks ago we launched the Free Wolfram Engine for Developers to help people integrate the Wolfram Language into large-scale software projects. Now, today, we’re launching the Wolfram Function Repository to provide an organized platform for functions that are built to extend the Wolfram Language---and we’re opening up the Function Repository for anyone to contribute.
The Wolfram Function Repository is something that's made possible by the unique nature of the Wolfram Language as not just a programming language, but a full-scale computational language. In a traditional programming language, adding significant new functionality typically involves building whole libraries, which may or may not work together. But in the Wolfram Language, there's so much already built into the language that it's possible to add significant functionality just by introducing individual new functions---which can immediately integrate into the coherent design of the whole language.
To get it started, we've already got 532 functions in the Wolfram Function Repository, in 26 categories: