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And Now We Are 20

It’s been twenty years since we launched MATLAB Central. It's tempting to say that it’s been twenty years since we started the MATLAB online community. But of course that's not true! MATLAB Central succeeded largely because the community it serves was already in place. What we did was build that community a house, a house on the still-somewhat-new frontier of the World Wide Web. Maybe some of you, reading this today, were among the people who used the old anonymous FTP site that predated the File Exchange. Or maybe you answered questions on the Usenet MATLAB newsgroup, comp.soft-sys.matlab, that predated Answers. If you did, I’d love to hear from you down in the comments below.

This is what MATLAB Central looked like on launch day in 2001. I think the design still holds up pretty well! But I'm biased...

Five years ago, for our 15th anniversary, I told the story of these earlier services, which go all the way back to 1993. So we might say this is actually something like the 28th anniversary of the earliest known MATLAB online community. The archives of the old FTP site are long gone, but it's not hard to track down the first post on the MATLAB newsgroup. It appeared on January 14th, 1993, and you'll be happy to know that it was someone saying FIRST!

(It was a few more days before Cleve Moler said hello on behalf of MathWorks.)

And you may remember the story of Pontus Axelsson and his remarkable MATLAB-powered Viking ship. That ship was one of the first files to be listed on the new File Exchange, and you can still download it today. But even in 2021 the Viking ship has manage to stay up with the times. I recently got a message from Pontus. He's living in New York where he is the CEO of a company he founded. He had this to say.

I recently read up on NFTs and blockchains. I like learning by doing so I figured I would mint an artwork of my own and list it for sale. Just for fun. And what better to use than the iconic MATLAB Viking Ship.

The old renderings that I had were much too low resolution, so I ended up installing MATLAB again and rendering new ones. I originally created the Viking Ship in MATLAB 4 on a Sun SPARCstation, and while I no longer have access to a SPARCstation, I wanted to stay true to the time period. I fired up MATLAB 4 on my Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh from 1997 and rendered new HD versions of the ship. I have attached a photo as well as copies of the new HD renderings.

Is the Viking Ship perhaps the very first NFT made in MATLAB? 😊

I'm not aware of any other NFTs in MATLAB, but I'm sure this won't be the last. His NFT of the animated Viking ship has already sold for a whopping 2.0 ETH. Congratulations, Pontus, for a ship whose saga only grows more interesting over the decades! There's gold in them thar MATLAB animations! What MATLAB-generated assets can you put up for sale? Should we add an NFT art gallery to MATLAB Central?

I want to close by bringing this back to MATLAB Central's birthday. Every birthday deserves a party, so we're throwing one that you can attend. We'll be hosting not one but two different contests in honor of the event. The first is a Treasure Hunt that's designed to give you a tour of MATLAB Central. One of the nice things about this contest is that, the more you play, the more money we donate to the charity Direct Relief (up to $20,000).

The second contest starts up a few weeks later. Called the MATLAB Mini Hack, it involves making exquisite algorithmic art work with a smattering of code. This contest will be unique because the prizes will themselves be based on the winning images. And who knows, maybe this will allow us to start our MATLAB Central Gallery of Algorithmic Art!

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