Monthly Archives: October 2007

You Never Forget Your First Love

One of my very first programming jobs was maintaining and developing a large Fortran application. The application consisted of numerous statistical analysis programs used by test developers at Educational Testing Services. So when I received my current Dr. Dobbs email subscription, the following article brought back a lot of fond memories. Because I could not find the actual article on the Dr. Dobbs WEB site, I have reprinted it here. If I eventually locate it, I’ll then include a link.

Fortran: Staying Up to Date

In an industry when things change at GHz speeds, there’s solace in the permanance of tools like Fortran, which has been around since…what, the 1950s? Well “yes,” now that I think about it. John Backus spec’d out the “IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System” in the early 1950s, and delivered the first Fortran compiler in the late 1950s, or thereabout.

Mr. Backus was my kind of guy. When asked many years later why he created Fortran in the first place, he responded that “much of my work has come from being lazy.” He went on to add that “I didn’t like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701 (an early computer), writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on a programming system to make it easier to write programs.”

What brought all this to mind is the note from Absoft that it has released the first commercial Fortran IDE for Windows and Linux (and MacOS not far behind). The IDE, which comes bundled with Absoft’s Pro Fortran 10.1 tool suite, supports development for multi-core processor from Intel and AMD by providing auto-parallelization and auto-vectorization. According to Absoft, performance tests with Pro Fortran 10.1 auto-parallelizing and auto-vectorizing compilers have demonstrated superscalar speed improvements on several industry benchmark programs. With the IDE, tools can be run from the GUI or the command line. It also accepts select third-party tools, such as compilers from Apple, GNU, and Microsoft and VNI’s IMSL numerical libraries.

There you have it. Even at 50 years old, Fortran is kicking up its heels. Which makes me wonder: What do you think Ruby or C# will look like 50 years from now?

— Jonathan Erickson

Another good Fortran article worth a read locate at Dr. Dobb’s is Fortran and IMSL: It’s MacOS’s Turn