What is APLs Contribution to Science?

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1 Response to “What is APLs Contribution to Science?”


  • I can’t comment on how much APL’s contributed to science, but it’s certainly contributed to mathematics.

    Ken was very interested in the use of APL for the teaching of math at (at least) the high-school level, and that has had its influence. Case in point: in a first-year algebra class at the University of Waterloo in 1976 or 1977, Prof. William J. Gilbert, who was teaching number systems (base-10, base-8, etc.) said “and of course you can’t have a negative base” (or maybe it was fractional base; I can’t remember), whereupon a bunch of us jumped up and said “oh yes you can!” It turned out that those of us who said this had all learned APL in high school, and that was why we understood that a base can be fractional and even negative: APL’s “encode” and “decode” primitive functions support number systems in a more general way than most people have been taught.

    Furthermore, Prof. Gilbert then said “OK, I’ll have to dig out my APL book again!” and afterward did a lot of work that appears to have been inspired by that. On his webpage http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/~wgilbert/ there is, for instance, a link to his (and his co-author’s) paper “Negative Based Number Systems”, published in 1979.

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