Chapter 01

Chapter 01 - Chapter 1 Introduction Computers are capable...

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Chapter 1 Introduction C omputers are capable of remarkable feats of data manipulation and numerical calculation, but they do only what they are told to do. They manipulate and calculate at incredible speed and have enormous memories, but unless they are told exactly what to do, they are useless. Humans (so far) are in control, and they control computers by giving them commands. A set of commands is a computer program . This book will teach you how to write computer programs and will do that by teaching you a programming language called Matlab , which is very popular among engineers and scientists. Matlab is one of many programming languages that have been developed since the advent of computers in the 1940s by researchers in the discipline of computer science. Computer science is the study of algorithms for processing information with computers, and the goal of each of the languages developed by computer scientists is to provide a means for describing those algorithms. An algorithm is a precise step-by-step procedure for solving a problem. The differences among computer programming languages arise primarily from the particular problems that are to be solved by means of algorithms. Matlab is special-purpose language that is an excellent choice for writing small programs (we’ll define “small” to be having fewer than a thousand lines) that solve problems involving the manipulation of numbers. It is especially appropriate when the person who will use the program is also a Matlab programmer (for example, the same person who wrote the program). The design of the language makes it possible to write a powerful program in a few lines. The problems may be relatively complex, while the Matlab programs that solve them are relatively simple: relative , that is, to the equivalent program written in a general-purpose language, such as C++ or Java. These two languages are hugely popular and are studied in computer science curricula all over the world. They are wonderful languages that are the result of 60 years of research in computer science, but they are wonderful only when they are appropriate. For many applications in engineering and science, they are not wonderful at all. For these applications, they are an extremely poor choice when compared with Matlab. Before we begin to learn how to use Matlab, it
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course CS 103 taught by Professor Fitzpatrick during the Spring '07 term at Vanderbilt.

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Chapter 01 - Chapter 1 Introduction Computers are capable...

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