[Numpy-discussion] Status of Numeric

Colin J. Williams cjw at sympatico.ca
Tue Jan 20 14:20:01 CST 2004

Travis Oliphant wrote:

> Numarray is making great progress and is quite usable for many 
> purposes.  An idea that was championed by some is that the Numeric 
> code base would stay static and be replaced entirely by Numarray.

It was my impression that this idea had been generally accepted. It was 
not just one of the proposals under discussion.

I wonder how many others out there had assumed that, in spite of current 
speed problems, numarray was the way for the future, and had based their 
development endeavours on numarray.  I did.

To this relative outsider, there seem to have been three groups involved 
in efforts to provide Python with numerical  array capabilities, those 
connected with Numeric, SciPy and numarray.  SciPy would appear to be 
the most recent addition to the list.

Is there any way that some agrement between these groups can be achieved 
to restore the hope for a common development path?

This message from Travis Oliphant seems to envisage two paths.  Is this 
the better way to go?

> However, Numeric is currently used in a large installed base.  In 
> particular SciPy uses Numeric as its core array.  While no doubt 
> numarray arrays will be supported in the future, the speed of the less 
> bulky Numeric arrays and the typical case that we encounter in SciPy 
> of many, small arrays will make it difficult for people to abandon 
> Numeric entirely with it's comparatively light-weight arrays.
> In the development of SciPy we have encountered issues in Numeric that 
> we feel need to be fixed.    As this has become an important path to 
> success of several projects (both commercial and open) it is 
> absolutely necessary that this issues be addressed. 

> The purpose of this email is to assess the attitude of the community 
> regarding how these changes to Numeric should be accomplished.
> These are the two options we can see:
> * freeze old Numeric 23.x  and make all changes to Numeric 24.x  still 
> keeping Numeric separate from  SciPy
> * freeze old Numeric 23.x and subsume Numeric into SciPy essentially 
> creating a new SciPy arrayobject that is fast and lightweight.  
> Anybody wanting this new array object would get it by installing 
> scipy_base.  Numeric would never change in the future but the array in 
> scipy_base would.
> It is not an option to wait for numarray to get fast enough as these 
> issues need to be addressed now.  Ultimately I think it will be a wise 
> thing to have two implementations of arrays: one that is fast and 
> lightweight optimized for many relatively small arrays, and another 
> that is optimized for large-scale arrays.  Eventually, the use of 
> these two underlying implementations should be automatic and invisible 
> to the user.

Is this "automatic and invisible" practicable, excepts for trivial examples?

> A few of the particular changes we need to make to the Numeric 
> arrayobject are:
> 1) change the coercion model to reflect Numarray's choice and 
> eliminate the savespace crutch.
> 2) Add indexing capability to Numeric arrays (similar to Numarray's)
> 3) Improve the interaction between Numeric arrays and scalars.
> 4) Optimization:
> Again, these changes are going to be made to some form of the Numeric 
> arrays.  What I am really interested in knowing is the attitude of the 
> community towards keeping Numeric around.   If most of the community 
> wants to see Numeric go away then we will be forced to  bring the 
> Numeric array under the SciPy code-base and own it there.
> Your feedback is welcome and appreciated.
> Sincerely,
> Travis Oliphant and other SciPy developers
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I hope that some cooperative approach can be devised.

Colin W.

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