Is MATLAB losing its charm?
Although Python has continued to show dominance in the TIOBE index for April 2022, the highlight of this month’s report is something else entirely. MATLAB is nearly dropping out of the top 20 for the first time in over a decade. In April 2021, it was in the 19th position, and now, a year after that, it has fallen even further. MATLAB finds its use in the field of numerical analysis and is often associated with Simulink. Both are from the MathWorks company.
Image: TIOBE Index
Even in the Stack Overflow Report of 2021, when respondents were asked in which programming, scripting, and markup languages they had done significant development work in the past year and in which they wanted to work next year, a measly 4 .66% of respondents answered by MATLAB.
Image: stack overflow
MATLAB has been around for almost four decades now. Famous computer programmer and mathematician Cleve Moler is the creator of MATLAB.
In a 2017 conversation with Computer History Museum, Moler said, “While I was working on LINPACK and EISPACK, I was also teaching classes at the University of New Mexico and wanted my students to be able to use LINPACK and EISPACK without the Fortran programs. In 1984 he co-founded MathWorks with Jack Small to market this program.
Erin Byrneengineer at MathWorks, explains in a video that millions of engineers and scientists use MATLAB to analyze data, develop algorithms, and create systems that are used in different aspects of our lives. “At the heart of MATLAB is a high-level programming language that allows engineers and scientists to directly express matrix and matrix mathematics,” she adds. MATLAB comes with a library of toolkits covering areas like signal and image processing, control systems, data science, deep learning, AI, and more.
If you search for MATLAB reviews on any site, as well as the many uses of MATLAB, you will find the common complaint – price! Let’s face it, MATLAB licenses are quite expensive.
“Although MATLAB has a semi-annual release cycle, the language doesn’t evolve that much. And since MATLAB licenses are quite expensive, alternatives are catching up fast,” adds Paul Jansen, CEO of TIOBE Software.
As MATLAB is not an open source product, users must purchase licenses to access it. And it’s not cheap and may be unaffordable for many. On top of that, for each additional toolkit that the user has to run, he has to incur additional charges.
MATLAB Licensing Structure
MATLAB’s pricing structure is based on four types of use cases.
- Education: It is mainly intended for academic needs and is used if the user is the faculty, researcher or an institute who wants to operate and administer the software itself.
- Home: This is primarily for personal use and is not open for government, academic, commercial or other organizational use.
- Student: intended for students pursuing college or higher education, it is mainly used for academic research.
- Standard: This is the default set of licenses that users can purchase if the other categories are not suitable for them. The products are used by a single user here.
Interpreted language has its own problems
It is common knowledge that interpreted languages struggle with execution speed. For interpreted languages, the computer running the program must parse and interpret the code each time before execution. This can reduce performance speed.
Python is a popular choice, so is Julia
Python is an open source programming language, which also means that it is available completely free of charge. According to one’s needs, one can download and install Python and modify the source code. It enjoys a large number of vibrant fans, with the developers actively contributing to its advancement.
In fact, Python has consistently topped various “best programming languages” rankings for quite some time now. In January, Python won the TIOBE Programming Language of the Year award for the second time in a row.
Julia, too (also open source), is becoming a popular choice in the community these days. In the April rankings of the TIOBE index, it rose from position 32 to 26.
MATLAB still dominates academia
Although not booming at the moment, MATLAB is enjoying its loyal fanbase. It finds wide use in academic circles dealing with heavy numerical calculations. MATLAB is quite easy to use and comes with predefined functions and libraries. The predefined libraries and tools available help users create GPUs for their individual programs.