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Review of IDL

1. Introduction

The Interactive Data Language (IDL) is an interpreted, structured language produced by Research Systems ( for the development of visualisation applications. It has it origins in a package developed to process data from NASA's Mars flyby spacecraft in the early 1970s. In the late 1980's Precision Visuals Inc. (now Visual Numberics Inc.) bought the source code for IDL which they then developed into their own product PV-WAVE. Since then IDL and PV-WAVE have both been developed independently.

One of the strengths of IDL is its cross-platform capabilities. IDL is an interpreted language and applications written in it are executed within the IDL environment. Consequently most applications can be moved to other platforms with little or no modification. Supported platforms for IDL version 5.0 are:

HardwareOperating SystemHardwareOperating System
Alpha AXP
Dec Alpha
Digital UNIX 4.0HP PaRiscHP-UX 10.1
IBM RS/600AIX 4.1Intel x86Linux 2.0
SGI R4000Irix 5.3/6.2Sun SparcSolaris1 and Solaris 2
Intel x86
Windows 3.11, 95, NTDec Alpha AXPWindows NT
Motorola 680x0
MacOS 7.1.2PowerPCMacOS 7.1.2

This (5.0) is the final release of IDL for Macintosh OS on Motorola 680x0 processors. This is the final release of IDL for Microsoft Windows version 3.11. This is the final release of IDL for VAX VMS (support will continue for Alpha VMS).

For the purposes of this review the Windows 95 version of IDL was used, running on an Intel Pentium II with 32MB of RAM.

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