You may have come across MATLAB, the matrix-manipulating maths package that’s widely used by engineering academics. It’s published by an American firm called The MathWorks, whose slogan is “Accelerating the pace of engineering and science”. This appears to be, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, a load of dingo’s kidneys. I’ve been trying to buy a copy of their software (MATLAB, Simulink and the various Communications add-ons for them) since before Christmas, and they’ve now wasted over a month of my time in failing to supply it.
The complicating factor is that MATLAB is extraordinarily expensive. The list price for my combination of options, as a single-user licence (that is, a licence for just me to use it on my computer) is over Â£6000! However, MathWorks have always given huge discounts to universities, which is why it’s so widely used in academia. BAS have been negotiating with MathWorks for about a year to get the academic price on the software (which would seem reasonable given that we’re a government-funded academic research institution) and just before Christmas I was told that the team had negotiated for a significant discount. I promptly raised a purchase order before the Christmas holidays set in, then came back to find nothing had happened. I’ve spent all of January chasing Steve (the purchasing officer) who has in turn been chasing MathWorks by phone and email and even refaxed the purchase order to them, and still no answer. Today I return to work after being on holiday for a week (Skiing in the French Alps, marvellous!) and find that a) nothing has happened and b) Steve is on holiday. I get a copy of the correspondence from one of Steve’s colleagues and chase the firm myself. Their salesman and I play voicemail tennis this morning and I eventually get a message from him saying that we need an invoice number to qualify for the discount. I go and see David, the Head of Engineering, who’s been doing the negotiating. He calls the salesman, who promises to email us more details of what hoops we need to jump through.
The saga continues.
In the mean time, I would like to say that The MathWorks, Inc, are a Bad Railway. If anyone else is planning on buying their products, I would seriously reconsider it!