Last Friday, Benoit Mandelbrot died, which was widely published around on the Internet. Generally adored by nerds, Mandelbrot, while respected, was a fairly controversial figure in the mathematics world.

Mandelbrot doesn’t spend months or years proving what he has observed,” for which he “has received quite a bit of criticism. … But if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences, he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.

I dare to say that Mandelbrots formulas took off with the introduction of the 8-bit colour homecomputers (earlier on xsamplex in 2004) and all these fractal generating programs. On our MSX2, I think it took at least a week to generate a simple Mandelbroth (320 x 250 with 256 colours). Even with earlier versions of Fractint on 286 AT machines, it would take days: today’s processing power does this in less than a second.

Whenever I think of Benoit Mandelbrot, I think about how fast computers have progressed in those years.

10/24/2010: Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Mandelbrot song’.