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February, 2013 | Chasing Men Who Stare at Arrays

Monthly Archive for February, 2013

Against the odds, APL’s logarithm wins

APL film logo

You probably noticed there were two choices on the voting ballot for the APL film logo, and logarithm wasn’t one of them. In fact, the APL symbol for rotate lead with 71% before we closed the poll – You might ask: What happened?

The first thing that happened immediately was a strong constituency lobbying for the APL symbol lamp.  Lamp is the symbol which denotes a comment in APL, and on the surface this is an obvious choice for a film logo.  In fact, lamp was on the list of possibilities presented to Cris Jaw, our visionary leader in the design process. While lamp simply isn’t badass enough for me, we heard the passion in the voices of our critics.   The discourse opened the door to the possibility that there might be a better choice than the two up for vote.  So, when APL’s logarithm was put forward later in the discussion which followed we had already considered the idea of not going with the vote.

The most compelling reason for going with APL’s symbol logarithm is:

It it denotes a function for which conventional mathematical notation does not have a good symbol (see Roger Hui’s, My Favorite APL Symbol 2013).

What better reminder that Kenneth E. Iverson’s vision was always turned to the future than an APL symbol to remind us that computer languages aren’t perfect, and neither is mathematical notation.   In the continuum of human progress, we’re not done yet.

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