[metapost] MP vs. Asymptote

Laurence Finston lfinsto1 at gwdg.de
Sat Apr 22 16:34:53 CEST 2006

On Sat, 22 Apr 2006, Taco Hoekwater wrote:

> But more importantly, most of my illustrations depend heavily on
> the equation solving capabilities of MetaPost. I got the impression
> Asymptote cannot do that (but I may have missed something).

I forgot all about this in my (non-exhaustive) list of the interesting
features of MF/MP; probably because I haven't implemented it in my
package.  I'll tell you why, too:  It would be difficult.  It is a
very unusual feature for a programming language, and I don't find it hard
to do without it.  I think there's a value in implementing seemingly more
pedestrian features.  However, I don't mind admitting that I wish I was as
good a mathematician as Knuth or Hobby (or was even a mathematician at
all) and could do clever things like that.

I agree that MF/MP isn't missing anything by not having a C-like syntax.
The latter is widely imitated, but a look through the relevant newsgroups
will show that it has its disadvantages, too.  That same look will also
show that it's endlessly imitated in students' homework, for no good
reason, as far as I can see.  C is no spring chicken, either, so it's
hardly surprising that people have had new insights regarding languages.
If I'd been more knowledgeable on the subject, I would have written a
new-and-improved language myself instead of imitating MF.  However, it
_was_ interesting, and possible, for a non-compiler specialist.  It may be
interesting to someone to know that I able to do this using
only the syntax rules in _The METAFONTbook_ and the GNU Bison manual, which I
think speaks well of the authors of those books.


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