# Get technical math support and plenty of help to go with it

## Implementation and support of a control system often may require solving a variety of mathematical functions. These functions can range from simple arithmetic and unit-conversion problems to more complex ones, such as determining the best-fit equation for a set of data. Typical use of these math functions includes incorporation of results in a program; duplication of the method with a program (...

11/01/2002

Implementation and support of a control system often may require solving a variety of mathematical functions. These functions can range from simple arithmetic and unit-conversion problems to more complex ones, such as determining the best-fit equation for a set of data. Typical use of these math functions includes incorporation of results in a program; duplication of the method with a program (using a measured variable as input then responding to the result); or analysis of data to select the best control method (variable wave form analysis).

A software package that can perform these functions and support other technical computing needs is the Calculation Center 2 package by Wolfram Research (Champaign, IL). The package supports a wide variety of technical math problems, with numerical and graphical outputs.

## All users accommodated

 Graphical representation of a function is easily performed by entering the function and its boundary condition.

Entry of functions or data to be evaluated is accomplished by two methods. For experienced users, selecting a function type allows direct entry of the function as text input. For less-experienced users (or for infrequently used functions), there is a feature called InstantCalculator. It provides function boxes that prompt the user for the proper entries and then provides a target to click to perform the function selected.

If an error is made on entering a function, the software provides an explanation of the error. Explanations are function-specific but sometimes require familiarity with the package to understand. A 'Why the beep' function under the Help menu explains why these audible error notifications are given.

## Help wanted

Two other forms of assistance to the user are also available.

First, a standard help function has been indexed by the menu bar functions. This function makes exploring the help menu identical to the selection of a function. The tool explains the functions and user interface and gives clear examples.

A second method of providing help to the user is accessed through the InstantCalculator feature. At this point in function selection there is an option for showing a simple example, permitting the user to see a representative function input and the result that one can model input against.

Another feature of this software is its ability to convert text entry of summation and calculus functions into graphic equations that can be copied into word processing documents. This feature-along with the ability to paste the graphical representation of functions into other files -aids project documentation. Calculation Center 2 is a powerful software package. To get the most out of it, a user should plan on spending ample time experimenting with its functions and apply it in a real-life situation.

This review is based on version 2.0.0 of the Calculation Center 2 software package operating under Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional. It also operates under Microsoft Windows 95 or higher systems or on Macintosh systems with operating system 7.5.3 or later. Suggested retail price is \$295.

 Author Information Contributing Editor, Tracy J. Coates P.E. is a consulting engineer at PCE Engineering, Johnson City, TN.

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