MathCad solves equations-- f-a-s-t
by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. Originally
published in INPUT, June 1992
Despite the name, MathCad has nothing to do with
Computer Assisted Design,
but everything to do with high-end math, especially as used by the
scientists, engineers, teachers, and students. MathSoft would like you
to think of their product as a computer aided scratch-pad--- but one
can also produce publication-ready output.
Programming languages from BASIC to C can be used to
produce the answers
to math problems. So can most spreadsheets. But try doing that with
like the quadratic formula that was (generally unsuccessfully) drummed
into all our heads in high school math--- in a programming language,
might have to type in something like:
and in a spreadsheet, it might look like this:
Either way, you'll get your answer (yes, math
teachers, one of the two
answers, actually). In MathCad, what you'd type would look just like
illustration that haunted your teen-age years... complete with
for squares, the square root sign, and fractions that actually look
So what, you say--- Word Perfect and Word for Windows
and Ami Pro (among
other word processors) include equation editors that let me include
already. Well, the big difference is that MathCad, like the
not only lets you type in equations that look like math, it calculates
the answer. (Try that in Word Perfect, eh?)
Especially when using a graphical environment like
Windows or the Mac,
it takes only a short time to get up and running in MathCad. Give X a
type in a formula, using tools along the sides to get the fancy math
Press the equal sign and you've got the answer. Change the value of X,
and the answer changes. Make X a range of values, and you've got a
One click and you've got an X-Y graph. A wide range of 2-D and 3-D
are quickly obtained. A graphical user environment makes it easy to
up' your screen with fonts and styles for enhanced printed output.
The math supported runs from the sorts of algebra and
trig you may have
dreaded in Math 11 through vectors and matrices, statistics, fourier
differentials and integrals, and lots more, all with 15 digit accuracy.
New to the Windows version (promised for the Mac later
this year,) are
two new features. "Electronic Handbooks" have been created as on-line
material. Hypertext links let you find what you're looking for quickly,
and you can paste formulas, values, or entire calculations from the
into your document. A tutorial handbook, and a 'standard' handbook are
included, with three others being sold seperately. These join the
packs that have been available for some time to customize MathCad for
in electrical, mechanical, civil, and chemical engineering, as well as
statistics, advanced math, and numerical methods.
As well, the Windows version includes a new symbolic
(licensed by MathSoft from Canadian Waterloo Maple Software). This lets
you manipulate abstract functions directly; rather than simply plugging
a value into an equation, you can factor equations, simply formulas,
integrals or differentials, substitute complex expressions for a
and perform many other practical operations.
The key word here is "practical". The makers of
MathCad see it as a
tool for people who need to use math to solve problems. There are
programs for mathematicians, using math in a more abstract way:
or the full Maple software, for instance (both of which also cost at
twice as much as MathCad). If, however, you like the idea an on-screen
engineer's notebook, with reference material just a few mouse clicks
or just need to solve equations fast,
MathCad is for you. Now when we can get it run on one of those little
available for Windows (version reviewed),
DOS, Unix, & MacIntosh
Price $495 US list (Vancouver street price
approx. $390 CDN). (Available at a steep discount to
educational institutions and registered students).
-- free working demo versions available.
Windows version requires a Windows-capable machine
(286 or above w. 2meg+ memory, graphics monitor & mouse),
running Windows 3.x, and 7 meg hard drive space. Math Co-processor
supported but not required.
Available from MathSoft, Inc.
201 Broadway, Cambridge, MA. 02139 USA.
Phone: 1-800-MATHCAD; 617-577-1017;