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MATLAB (short for "Matrix Laboratory") was originally created in the 1970s by Cleve Moler at the University of New Mexico.

MATLAB is a so-called "4th generation programming language", that is, a programming language designed with a *specific* purpose in mind. This is in contrast to 3rd generation programming languages (FORTRAN/C/C++) which are general purpose in nature.

Although MATLAB itself provides a great deal of basic matrix manipulation, plotting, and general purpose scientific programming capability, a large part of its functionality is actually available through specialized "toolboxes" such as the Optimization toolbox, the Statistics toolbox, the Signal Processing toolbox, the Image Processing Toolbox, etc.