MATLAB, which stands for MATrix LABoratory, is a state-of-the-art mathematical software
package, which is used extensively in both academia and industry. It is an interactive program
for numerical computation and data visualization, which along with its programming capabilities
provides a very useful tool for almost all areas of science and engineering. Unlike other
mathematical packages, such as MAPLE or MATHEMATICA, MATLAB cannot perform
symbolic manipulations without the use of additional Toolboxes. It remains however, one of the
leading software packages for numerical computation.
As you might guess from its name, MATLAB deals mainly with matrices. A scalar is a 1-by-1
matrix and a row vector of length say 5, is a 1-by-5 matrix. We will elaborate more on these and
other features of MATLAB in the sections that follow. One of the many advantages of
MATLAB is the natural notation used. It looks a lot like the notation that you encounter in a
linear algebra course. This makes the use of the program especially easy and it is what makes
MATLAB a natural choice for numerical computations.
MATLAB (matrix laboratory) is a numerical computing environment and fourth-generation programming language. Developed by MathWorks, MATLAB allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacin g with programs written in other languages, including C, C++, and Fortran.
Although MATLAB is intended primarily for numerical computing, an optional toolbox uses the MuPAD symbolic engine, allowing access to symbolic computing capabilities. An additional package, Simulink, adds graphical multi-domain simulation and Model-Based Design for dynamic and embedded systems.
In 2004, MATLAB had around one million users across industry and academia. MATLAB users come from various backgrounds of engineering, science, and economics. Among these users are academic and research institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, NASA, Max Planck Society, Canterbury University, and RWTH Aachen University as well as industrial enterprises such as ABB Group, Boeing, Caterpillar Inc., Ford Motor, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Novartis, Pfizer, Philips, Toyota, and UniCredit Bank
MATLAB was created in the late 1970s by Cleve Moler, then chairman of the computer science department at the University of New Mexico. He designed it to give his students access to LINPACK and EISPACK without having to learn Fortran. It soon spread to other universities and found a strong audience within the applied mathematics community. Jack Little, an engineer, was exposed to it during a visit Moler made to Stanford University in 1983. Recognizing its commercial potential, he joined with Moler and Steve Bangert. They rewrote MATLAB in C and founded MathWorks in 1984 to continue its development. These rewritten libraries were known as JACKPAC In 2000, MATLAB was rewritten to use a newer set of libraries for matrix manipulation, LAPACK.
MATLAB was first adopted by control design engineers, Little’s specialty, but quickly spread to many other domains. It is now also used in education, in particular the teaching of linear algebra and numerical analysis, and is popular amongst scientists involved with image processing.