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Language as an intellectual tool: From hieroglyphics to APL

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1 Author(s)
McIntyre, D.B. ; Luachmhor, Church Road, Kinfauns, Perth PH2 7LD, Scotland, U.K.

We learn elementary mathematics before understanding the source of its symbols and procedures, which therefore appear, incorrectly, to have been decreed ready-made. Language and reason are intimately related, and the embodiment of an idea in a symbol may be essential to its comprehension. APL unifies algebra into a single consistent notation; it allows us to exploit the powerful concepts of functions and operators; and it helps us to escape from the tyranny of scalars by giving us the tools to think in terms of arrays, or multiple quantity, as J. J. Sylvester so eloquently urged us to do a century ago. APL has an intellectual consistency that is a source of satisfaction and pleasure. This paper traces the history of symbols from hieroglyphics to APL.

Note: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Incorporated is distributing this Article with permission of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) who is the exclusive owner. The recipient of this Article may not assign, sublicense, lease, rent or otherwise transfer, reproduce, prepare derivative works, publicly display or perform, or distribute the Article.  

Published in:

IBM Systems Journal  (Volume:30 ,  Issue: 4 )