Earlier this week WolframAlpha boated about its role in the Siri personal assistant that is one of the features in the iPhone 4S. Stephen Wolfram looks back at how Steve Jobs has influenced in during the period they have known each other for the past 25 years.
Wolfram became famous for his development for computational software Mathematica in the 1980s. He and Steve Jobs were introduced in 1987, during that time Jobs was still at NeXT and Wolfram was developing his own software. The two help a number of descussions together as they had a lot in common to talk about and it was Jobs’ idea to call the software Mathematica. Wolfram was quoted about the naming of his software:
“I’d actually considered that name, but rejected it. I asked Steve why he thought it was good, and he told me his theory for a name was to start from the generic term for something, then romanticize it. His favorite example at the time was Sony’s Trinitron. Well, it went back and forth for a while. But in the end I agreed that, yes, Mathematica was a good name. And so it has been now for nearly 24 years.”
Jobs also suggested a few more improvements to help his software improve its chances in usability.
“As Mathematica was being developed, we showed it to Steve Jobs quite often. He always claimed he didn’t understand the math of it (though I later learned from a good friend of mine who had known Steve in high school that Steve had definitely taken at least one calculus course). But he made all sorts of “make it simpler” suggestions about the interface and the documentation. With one slight exception, perhaps of at least curiosity interest to Mathematica aficionados: he suggested that cells in Mathematica notebook documents (now CDFs) should be indicated not by simple vertical lines—but instead by brackets with little serifs at their ends. And as it happens, that idea opened the way to thinking of hierarchies of cells, and ultimately to many features of symbolic documents.”
Jobs and Wolfram built a relationship, with Mathematica being included with every NeXT computer. A number of which were found in Switzerland where Tim Berners-Lee found them and used them to develop and launch the World Wide Web.
Wolfram also discusses other occasions that him and Jobs met, one of which including the dating advice Wolfram offered to Jobs after he met his then girlfriend and later his wife Laurene. At that time the advice that Jobs gave to time was why would he choose to write quotes from high-profile sources on the back cover of a book he was publishing.
“At the time, all sorts of people were telling me that I needed to put quotes on the back cover of the book. So I asked Steve Jobs if he’d give me one. Various questions came back. But eventually Steve said, “Isaac Newton didn’t have back-cover quotes; why do you want them?” And that’s how, at the last minute, the back cover of A New Kind of Science ended up with just a simple and elegant array of pictures.”
Wolfram’s perspective of Jobs and his life is similar to what others have said and stated, including his clarity of thought and willingness to take bold steps. I guess that was made him so unique as an busnisman .
“To me, Steve Jobs stands out most for his clarity of thought. Over and over again he took complex situations, understood their essence, and used that understanding to make a bold definitive move, often in a completely unexpected direction.”
Steve Jobs died yesterday at the age of 56, we send many condolences to his family.