Choosing a programming language as a competitive tool

Bruce Sass bsass at
Tue May 8 09:51:54 CEST 2001

On 8 May 2001 xdgobbi at wrote:
> Be careful here.  The definition of 'vector' varies according to
> application (or by which branch of math, physics, or engineering,
> or biology you are dealing with).
> Linear Algebra:     a vector is a 1D array of real or complex numbers
> Tensor Analysis:    a vector is a quantity that behaves in a particular
>                     manner under coordinate transformations
> Classical physics:  same definition as tensor analysis, though often
>                     watered down to 'magnitude + direction' which is
>                     an adequate definition for many applications
> Quantum physics:    same definition as linear algebra (in general)
> Engineering:        whatever suits the problem, but this almost always
>                     means the definition given by tensor analysis
> Biology:            a intermediate organism which carries an infectious
>                     agent between the source and the host organism
>                     (sorry, this is a bad joke)
> Computer Science:   a vector is a 1D array of just about anything -- the
>                     elements are often all of the same type (homogeneous)
>                     or at least are all derived from the same base type,
>                     though heterogeneous vectors are also common

My first introduction to "vector" in computing was...

"Interrupt Mode 2 (Vectored Interrupts)

... It is a powerful mode which allows automatic vectoring of
interrupts.  The interupt vector is an address supplied by the
peripheral device which generated the interrupt, and used as a memory
pointer to the start address of the interrupt-handler routine."[1]

...which sounds most like the Biology definition to me.

> Um, just a minute --  what exactly is my point here?  Oh yes...
> for a general purpose computing language to define a vector as anything
> other than a 1D array is a little silly.  There is no single, true
> definition of a vector, and it's best to stick to the definition that
> programmers (and computers) are most comfortable with.

Ya, even in computing "vector" can mean different things.
Maybe best to leave it out of a general lexicon, for fear of trampling
on, or confusing with, a domain specific use.

- Bruce

[1] How to Program the Z-80, Rodnay Zaks, 1981

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