There are many students and professionals in science and engineering, other than those specifically
interested in fields such as computer science or computer engineering, who need to
know how to solve computational problems on computers. There are basically two approaches
to meeting the needs of such people. One is to rely on software applications such as spreadsheets,
using built-in functions and perhaps user-defined macros, without requiring any
explicit understanding of the principles on which programming languages are based.
A second approach is to learn a programming language, previously Fortran or Pascal,
and more recently C, C++, or Java. These languages are important for certain kinds of
work, such as computer science or scientific computing, but they may be viewed, possibly
with good reason, as irrelevant by many students and professionals.
From a student’s point of view, there is no painless solution to this dilemma, but in this
book I assume that learning to solve computational problems in an online environment
The use of PHP for accessing externally stored data files, a capability that is not
problems that can be addressed. A working knowledge of these programming languages is
a valuable skill for any scientist or engineer. The fact that these are Web-based languages
may make such skills more immediately marketable than comparable skills developed
with older text-based languages.