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Power-User
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John Backus Dies - Creator of FORTRAN

03/20/2007 9:39 AM

The New York Times is reporting that John Backus, who led the IBM team that developed the FORTRAN language in 1957, has died at age 82.

The article mentions that Backus was wandering by a display of a large IBM electronic calculator at IBM's Madison avenue headquarters in the early 1950's. When he mentioned to a tour guide that he was a graduate student in mathematics, they took him upstairs, gave him an informal interview, and hired him on the spot as a programmer.

I learned programming with FORTRAN, and still like it for scientific computing. In its later incarnations it has accumulated some fairly modern programming constructs.

You can tell it was written for mathematics types and not computer scientists - array indices start at 1, not 0

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Power-User

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#1

Re: John Backus Dies - Creator of FORTRAN

03/21/2007 9:43 AM

FORTRAN has an incredible history. Some of the greatest achievements in the last century were dependent upon Fortran and it's derivitives. I remember a huge hanger sized room full of IBM 7094's all humming merrily away with FORTRAN defining the flight parameters of the Apollo Moon Program. North American Aviation employed dozens of FORTRAN programmers who seemed to never sleep in those heady days where inventions were routinely scheduled.

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#2

Re: John Backus Dies - Creator of FORTRAN

03/21/2007 10:09 AM

I enjoyed programming in FORTRAN some 30 year ago for the IBM 370. The language included as default complex numbers and matrix algebra. I was becoming a fanatic until someone declared that C would be the definitive language. But C included nothing about complex numbers or matrix algebra, so soon after I abandoned software. In the mid 80s I turned to program Xilinx FPGAs using a diagrammatic program that allows to compile from a hierarchical schematic diagram of the logic function blocks. But recently the dominant beaurocracy of C has been introducing by force of stupidity new "languages" to program Xilinx FPGAs, just in text, no more schematics. A single schematic with a few functions turns now into several pages of text. I see no advantage at all. With a schematic diagram I see a whole landscape of what is going on, like a city map. To drive around a large city do you prefer an illustrated map or a heavy book with GPS directives? I prefer an illustrated map, images are by far more explicit than texts. This time I will not give-up.

Jaime

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