MathCAD


1. A philosophical-religious aspect of the problem


A naturalist interested in a real-world phenomenon has no ability to appeal straight to the Creator (God or Nature, according to your choice) but has to ask the research object itself that is, carry out an experiment by perturbing this object and investigating its reaction.

A program has its own creators, the authors. Their names are not always specified on boxes, disks and in the documentation, but they do exist. Hence theoretically it should be unnecessary to experiment with programs. All questions that may arise ought to be answerable either by the documentation or the authors themselves. But in practice if a user wishes, for instance, to identify the measurement unit (degrees or radians) of a sine function, they won't rummage in the documentation. They will simply define x:= sin(90) and observe the x variable value.

Such experiments are carried out hourly by users, who appeal to the documentation only in extremely complicated cases, as a rule when they're not satisfied with their own answer. And it's rather problematic to appeal to the creator. The program dealers, not the authors, run the support hotline; and readers well know that this isn't the same thing. The hotline operator will most likely offer to test the program and try to find out the answer, and ask you to ring back in a couple of days. And it would often be ineffective to ask the authors, who have forgotten their offspring and are entirely engrossed in a new project. Even if that isn't so, they can't be expected to remember all the properties and nuances of their creation.

That is why users usually forget that a program is a product of human intelligence and skills, supposing at an emotional level that it's a fruit of the efforts of an anonymous and unattainable Creator who doesn't have a support hotline. Here, most probably, lies a philosophical explanation (but by no means justification) of the widespread practice of illegal program copying. We're not talking about deliberate larceny, like creating Chinese-Bulgarian CD-ROMs labelled "Everything for your Office".[1] Here, we are dealing with relatively honest people, installing a program on their computer from the above-mentioned CD-ROM in order to understand its nature and to share their knowledge, for instance with students.




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